May 25th, 2018 by Carl Buffington
The priest replied, "Can you describe the feeling?"
"It happens every night," the young man said. "I lie down and begin thinking over my day when a terrible feeling comes over me; a burning in my heart, like the burning the disciples felt when meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus. But when I feel it, it feels like something is wrong. It's more like a pain. It's as if God is trying to tell me something. Please, help me. What does it mean?"
And I think all of these things are spiritual matters.
In the past I might have suggested that therapy, exercise and medicine were un-spiritual things, as opposed to prayer, fasting and meditation. Nowadays, I wonder if it is un-spiritual to consider one aspect of my life "Spiritual" leaving all other aspects of myself partitioned off. I wonder if thinking spiritually means seeing my whole life (emotional, psychological, physiological, religious, economic, social, familial...) as singular - as if my Creator is concerned with every inch and aspect of my whole self.
I don't believe it is at all unspiritual, much less un-Christian, to see a therapist or take an antacid. I do think, on the other hand, that it is distinctly unchristian to separate physical or financial parts of my life from my "spiritual life." God, whose greatest revelation of Himself was to become fully human, has great concern with all of me.
I find that one of the most powerful aspects of the Incarnation story is the 30 years of silence before the recorded part of Jesus' life. That silence says to me that, until he was baptized by John, Jesus lived a life that was, in large part, unremarkable, since nobody found much of it worth marking down. Many days, I find my life to be somewhat unremarkable; I work, I eat, I rest, I have time with family and friends. Nothing out of the ordinary - not even a flash of celestial glory. I am encouraged that Jesus lived such a life as well, at least for a time.
All of which says to me that these things are not insignificant in their normality, but that God finds worth in spending most of a human lifetime attending to simple things like work and neighbors and friendships and family.
It seems that God not only abides in mundane things, but dwells in them and does so gladly. And if that's true, which I believe it is, it means he dwells in me and my work and my community. A community of beautifully normal people with jobs and kids and mortgages and leaky faucets and disagreements and heartburn and issues to work through externally and interpersonally. A community who gathers on Sundays to celebrate and remember the One who is glorious and majestic and who was carried in the womb of a teenage girl to be born into the world just like any of us normal folks were.
Not just a world I cannot see, but the world right in front of me.
My job matters.
My bank account matters.
My education matters.