Coming to Terms (part 1)

BY Doug Jones

June 27, 2012

This post will be a short one, but take the time to mull it over and then add your comments to this conversation. I will follow up next week with some summary statements and some of my own thoughts as well. Not long ago, in preparation for a class I was teaching, I came across the following quote, and to tell you the truth, it has been one that has stuck with me, nagging me, and calling out to be considered.

Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Restless Heart, writes, “Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest…about what we do with that incurable desire, the madness…within us.”

How does this compare to how you think about the term spirituality? What are the strengths with how Rolheiser defines the term? How would this change how you and your church address your community in its spiritual hunger? Does this definition come up short? If so, what are its shortcomings?

Looking forward to reading and interacting with your comments.

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4 comments on “Coming to Terms (part 1)

  1. I recently read TELLING THE TRUTH by Fredrick Beauchner and was amazed at how he points out that our inner selves, our spiritual entity is far more dependent on silences and stillness rather than action. God sent me to Psalm 46 and the command “Be still and know that I am God” pretty much sums up all I need to do on a daily basis. When I think of the last days of Christ before he was murdered possibly more was said by his silence and inaction than most of what he taught us until then. The trails and tribulations of this world, our enemy, and the flesh mean so very, very little when compared with I AM. I think the quote sums it up nicely but I personally think that at the place my mind and heart is at now I would rewrite to say “Spirituality is about what GOD does with our unrest…about what the Spirit does with our incurable desire, the madness with us.” The Apostle Paul, another man who was tortured and murdered, said that our present suffering will not even compare with God will do (Romans 8). Most everything else but knowing and following the Shepard is really none of my business.

  2. Doug, great quote. Unrest is a striking aspect of spirituality and relationship with God that is most often never discussed, especially in relation to student ministry. More often we try to boil things down to their basics, or make things palatable, or at the very least easy to understand.

    It seems like to me, that unrest is a sign of an already moving God. A marker of the Spirit of God prophesying within us to seek another way. To embrace mystery and keep moving, looking, listening.

    What might it look like if we encouraged some unrest? Allowed the unrest to settle for a time, rather than quickly “fixing” our spiritual lives. The goal isn’t to simply squelch the madness, but see where it might lead. So much of Jesus’ life looks like madness, but it is the way of the kingdom.

    So great to read you posts Doug!

  3. It seems to be an accurate way to discuss the central problem of spirituality: unrest. Augustine, I believe, said that a soul has no rest until it rests in God. The Christian tradition of Silence/ Solitude is about addressing that unrest, finding the places where we are uneasy. Paul says that Christ is our peace, speaking corporately, but I think it applies to the individual as well. The spiritual journey may be a reflection upon our unrest and bringing that unrest under the sway of Christ and realizing the peace that He offers. Rolheiser’s statement seems consistent with my journey.

  4. This conversation is reminding me of this quote – “I don’t set myself up to give spiritual advice but all I would like you to know is that I sympathize and I suffer this way myself. When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is
    making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.” -Flannery O’ Connor

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