Well I am drawing the What is a Spiritual Practice series to a close at least for this year, with this one final post. I am delighted at the many responses I have received about articles and the ways that this series has encouraged many of you to rethink what a spiritual practice is. I am now thinking about launching another series for Advent: What are we Waiting for? I will get the details posted next week.
Today’s article is from Mark Buhlig a member of Roadtrip Project. Roadtrip Project gives expression to sustainable spiritual transformation available through the modern pilgrimage they call service trip.
Reinventing the Wheel
Dream of a wheel, and on that wheel are three points. The points on the wheel symbolize Service, Reflection and Worship. Some of us have found that service is an entry gate into the wheel. We have found that for some reason, during these off campus, away from everything experiences, we feel more love, more peace, more the person that we really want to be. In fact, it is during these times that we are perhaps more the person that we really are. We have found that these experiences are so moving and so profound that we are compelled to reflect. We are compelled to look inside for the answers to the questions that these experiences require us to examine. And finally, we find ourselves drawn back to both the service and reflection as we worship. And the circle is complete.
As we start to embrace these points on the wheel, as we begin to look forward to the next point, the wheel begins to turn, and in the turning the motion of the wheel causes the points on the wheel to get closer and closer. Soon the points begin to blur and blend. What if the points blended together? What if they became one? What if these three points dissolved into one and the one became a lifestyle? What if the blended points were reflected in all that we did, all that we thought, all that we are?
More often than not we who participate in service/mission trips discover a counterintuitive truth: we receive much more than we give. We pack our bags and lace our boots and head out believing that we are the ones giving and those who occupy our destination are the recipients of our proficiency. We discover that these trips, these experiences, reveal not our proficiency but our deficiency. We come home broken and humble and for a short season we have a humble attitude. We question our values. We question our priorities. We question our culture. We even question our faith, or at least the faith we inherited.
There is a place on the horizon that we can see. There is a place ahead of us where we find ourselves free to cut the ropes that tie us to a culture that devalues community and elevates the individual. There is a place in front of us where we no longer make decisions that reinforce our comfort at the expense of another. There is a place ahead in the distance where we begin to live as Jesus taught us to live. In this place in the distance we do not make decisions that reinforce what is good for me, but what is good for us. It is a place where faith is as valid as fact. It is a place where we live our lives and make our decisions based on faith not fear. It is a place that provides the tools that we need to cultivate and sustain the lifestyle that we experienced for those days at our destination, because in those days we lived in nearly perfect community and we knew it. We were our best self and we knew it.
And then we come home. We turn our backs to the horizon and look back to the place we started from. We come home and for a short time we walk through our old world with fond memories of the place we saw in the distance. And then the memories begin to fade and when we remember those days it seems less than real. In fact we are told it is not real. The place we came back to, that is the real world and we continue to walk through our days with our eyes to the ground and our nose to the grindstone, because this is the real world not that land in the distance. Not that land of promise, the promise we knew after we packed our bags and laced our boots. Everything about this real world tells us that the land of promise is a lie.
And still, somewhere, somehow we hear a small voice that tells us otherwise. Calling from a distance we hear a voice that tells us of a better way. This voice tells us that sharing is better than having. This voice tells us that listening is as important as telling. This voice tells us that eating together is better than eating alone. It is a voice that tells us that all of the living we do is better when we live with others. But the voice is quiet and unfamiliar and when we think we hear it, we think that we may be crazy and we are afraid to turn to the one next to us and say, “Did you hear that?” You see, when we acknowledge the voice we are asked to step aside so that others may pass. Or, we are told that we should wake up and quit dreaming, because dreaming has no place in the real world.
But one day we pack our bags and lace our boots and turn to the horizon one more time and we walk again toward the small voice. And, we see that place we thought we had lost. As we get closer to the horizon the voice gets stronger and more familiar. We see that place again in the distance and questions are exposed. How can we sustain the love we feel? How can we sustain the peace we feel? How can we sustain this land on the horizon? How can we live like this every day?
The goal of our project is to find answers to these questions. No one of us has the solution, but all of us, listening to each other and for the Spirit of God can be about the holy task of bringing this holy place home with us. By talking about the holy moments that we have had in that land of promise we can better understand how real this dream can be. By becoming very familiar with that holy place we can better learn to recognize that which sets it apart from the real world. When we become more familiar with that which defines the dream we can talk about it with more confidence and we are not afraid of the voice that tells us to quit dreaming, indeed we become so bold as to ask others to come and dream with us. Dream of a wheel, and on that wheel are three points.