Defining my faith is too great a task! It is, essentially, describing the indescribable, because faith is deeper than words. Paradoxically, however, faith is linguistic, expressive, emotional, experiential, political, and translatable.
One way that I can describe my faith is that I consider myself standing in the contemplative tradition. For me, a contemplative Christianity means exploring silence and meditation: “be still and know that I am God.” It involves quietting the heart to listen and opening the spirit. When I find my spirit open and receptive, then I can find myself in a space where I can live with a greater awareness of the movement of the Spirit. This involves, among other things, becoming aware of the “fruits of the Spirit, as described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Embodying these spiritual virtues, letting them sink ever deeper into my life and mind, is the foundation of my faith.
Although I am a Christian, I have found it extraordinarily helpful to allow my faith to be informed by non-Christian perspectives on life, spirituality, and psychology. Two such perspectives are the Enneagram and the ancient Chinese spiritual classic, The Tao Te Ching.
The Enneagram is a system of personality typology that seeks to integrate psychological self-awareness with spiritual growth. It has helped me be attentive to the habits that keep me from embodying the fruits of the Spirit. According to the Enneagram, we each have patterns of responding to life that are deeply embedded within our personality. These patterns keep us less-than-open with others and hinder us from deeper intimacy with others, with god, and with the world.
The message of the Tao is similar. “The Master lets things come and go, his heart is open as the sky.” The Tao Te Ching advances what I call a radical libertarian spirituality. We are fully ourselves, fully free, when we can let go of our need to manipulate the world, change others, isolate ourselves, withdraw from relationships, achieve esteem, acquire wealth, or any other way in which we try to control our lives and our world.
The recurring theme of my faith is grace, unconditional acceptance. In the Christian faith, God accepts all people, unconditionally. In grace, we accept ourselves, just as we are. Through the working of grace, we accept others just as they are and accept the reality of the world as it is.
For me, however, such grace does not preclude a keen interest in engaging the issues of inequality, oppression, suffering, and exploitation in our world. On the contrary, grace is the basis for letting go of the various ways in which ego and personality keep me from engaging suffering and exploitation. Slowly, over time, spirituality has allowed me to let go of certain things, and as it is said, “the most dangerous perosn is th eone with nothing to lose.” The person who can be the greatest threat to the system of exploitation and suffering in our world today is the person who is spiritually and psychologically liberated.
Despite any lofty language or aspirations I may express, my faith and spiritual growth is formed by a daily practice of meditation and prayer. This practice is the most ordinary and mundane of things, which is why it is so important to me. I want my faith to be grounded, deeply faithful to the ordinary world in which we live.