Spiritual Essays

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  • Which Way? Directions are available for those who ask.

    If we ask “Which way should we go?” we hope to receive directions that will enable us to take the one way that is better than any of the others that are open to us. In life, there are many ways that we might proceed, some far better than others, although it might not be apparent to us at the time of choosing. In all the jokes about drivers who refuse to ask directions and who become hopelessly lost, the humor derives from fairly common human beliefs that our opinions are always correct and that we must act independently as much as possible. Neither belief offers a realistic way of proceeding any more than does a denial of being lost when we do not know the way.

    Seeking appropriate information is among the best of options when we are making choices about which way is better. Whether we ask a purely factual question of an automated electronic device or seek extended counsel from a person we trust, we do not thereby give up independence nor is our level of maturity diminished. The decisions we make are still ours, whether or not they have a direct logical connection with whatever information we might receive from others.

    Our experience of choosing the better way is quite often more satisfying and integral after having consulted than when we, like lost drivers, continue in self-affirming ignorance of everything except our own thoughts and ideas. Though we have learned much over the years, and are quite capable of making good decisions on our own, we are very often at our best when we integrate information from others before we speak or act.

    Of course we can ask direct questions, but if we are open to the vast amount of information available to us in people’s faces, gestures and tone of voice, many of our implicit questions will be answered. We can also obtain much very helpful information by observing our own internal movements. For example, when we are concerned about making a good decision, we might notice some anxiety. We could then wisely choose to wait, rather than make just any decision in a vain attempt to put an end to the unwelcome feeling caused by uncertainty.

    Many insights and inspirations come to us as answers to questions that have not yet come to mind, and are significant aids for determining a better way of progressing. Not every decision is the result of careful consideration, for we know of occasions when the best way forward came to us without any conscious questioning, even implicitly. From experiences such as these, when the right door opens before we even recognize that there are others, we can rightly conclude that we are always accompanied in our desire to make decisions that are not only good for us, but for others as well.

    The many ways that we go about making decisions can certainly include a direct request of God for guidance, because the same Spirit who is within us and gives us freedom of choice, is also pleased to clarify which way to go for those who ask.

  • Heard Of - Any of us might be well-known in one societal context, and unheard of in another.

    We have often been told or have seen in writing that some particular event was “unheard of,” usually meaning that whatever has now been made known had previously been scarcely or not at all a part of local information. We can turn the phrase around by referring to a particular event as “heard of” but at the same time scarcely or not commonly adverted to by those who know of it.

    Aside from our birthdays, how often do we reflect on the unique event that is our entry into life and our ongoing active presence in the world. We have been heard of by some, perhaps very many persons, but do we ever take time to consider the relational impact of our existence? We are quite aware that the world as a whole does not appear to be affected by our presence as one particular individual among billions. But quantitative measurements are about as useful for our present purposes as would be standing before the most beautiful work of art and thinking only about its size. Quite literally, there never has been or will be another you or me. We can at least consider for a brief amount of time what it means for us to be here, now.

    We can look with some wonder, no matter how young or old we are, at the immense reach of the relationships in which we participate. In some, we have been passive, as when we came into this world. In others, we were and are active members. But in all of our interactions, we have effects upon each and every person with whom we have spent even a moment. The world around us is irrevocably different, just from our presence as another human. In such a consideration we can recognize the huge responsibility that is ours for speaking and acting in such a way as to benefit, not harm, the equally significant unique others around us.

    Another “heard of” event is the manner of Jesus Christ’s entry into the world. Jesus is a historical person as are each of our own ancestors, even those whose names we have never learned. He is also like those many individuals, some remembered as praiseworthy and others as notorious, who are subjects of biographies and stories. But when mention is made of his also being God: for some of us, the possibility is mentally beyond normal comprehension. But even for many who have heard of this unique event, and who also accept that God can do whatever God wants to do, they still do not recognize the occurrence as making any more difference than their own presence in this world. Reflection is the means we can use to appreciate the gift that Jesus is, just as it enables us to be truly appreciative of our own existence.

    Any of us might be well-known in one societal context, and unheard of in another. But our value and significance in the human community comes not from what is written or said about us, but from our created existence, for which we can rightly give thanks to God, who is Presence.