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Opportunity 4 // This Generation is Open to Spirituality

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French philosopher André Comte-Sponville, defines a form of Atheistic spirituality as “our relationship with the finite and infinite, that can be experienced for instance, by gazing at night at the immensity of our universe, our relationship of the temporal and eternal, in our experience of the "Eternal present", and finally our relationship of relativity and the absolute”. All of those things leaning into the never-ending quest of the "mystery of being". What a statement for an atheist, wanting to experience life, not being amputated of one of our essential experience as being created by God in his image: spirituality.

And what an open door of opportunity this generation gives us in not rejecting spirituality all together! But not just any spirituality will do. We must engage in helping them find the path to Truth, to Jesus Christ, and to the Book that surpasses all books: God’s Word. Only there will their quest for the “other” become the “One” who will truly quench their thirst for love, relationship, and spirituality through God's Spirit.

 

As we move forward in considering how to open this path for them, it is paramount that we do not put in place programs focused around knowledge, and heavy structures fuelled by our performance oriented mindset. Instead we need to create opportunities for people to encounter God, with all their being. There is no shortcut for experience. We need to observe and listen more. What we hear needs to point us to the types of encounters, be they gatherings or personal mentoring, that are more focused on matters of “being” than “doing”, building more on the relational side of faith which center on engaging with God as a person through the long forgotten practices of discipleship practices.

Change doesn’t happen overnight and new generations don’t get engaged with Faith in a day. We have to start slowly by asking questions and opening up conversations that will flow over many years and decades if it may or must! Living authentic and loving relationships, leading by example, with vulnerability and transparency will inevitably inspire others. It will take time, and trust and patience, lots of prayer and perseverance. One-step-at-a-time taking opportunities to lay the foundational DNA of Faith and accompanying people on their journey to God.

There are many creative ways we can open doors for these conversations that can lead to a spiritual life with God. I personally lead a ministry called “Les Randonnées du Pèlerin” (Pilgrim Hiking) which organizes hikes for two, three or four days where the participant is invited to discover the principles of pilgrim-living. As one steps outside of a warm cabin and walks into the a cold winter night, perhaps for the first time of his life, he is overtaken by mixed emotions: nervousness, curiosity, apprehension, and excitement. All he can hear is the sound of his snowshoes on crisps snow and his own heavy breath, testifying to the terrain's strain on his body. He is invited to stop and be still. He gazes up to the stars. The loud silence of wilderness is overwhelming. The littlest click  in the forest startles him. Admiring God's creation in the darkness of the night is powerful. He is reminded of his vulnerability. A friend coughs a few meters away, and he finds himself somehow reassured by a deep sense of brotherhood. As he is guided through trails and spiritual exercises over the next days, God meets him through creation. Jesus talks to his heart during spiritual group discussions and personal exercises. The hardships of the walk lights a new perspective on his life. He recalls the mountain tops and the low valleys of his life. And comes a time when he cannot help himself but to long for the warm fire, protected by rough wood and a tin roof. This hope speaks to him: God is our shelter and invites us on a journey everyday. Over the course of these outings, transformation inevitably takes place in one way or the other. Whether you are non believer experiencing the presence of God for the first time, or a believer deepening your faith and love for Christ, the encounter leaves nobody indifferent. Back to everyday life, you are equipped with a refreshed narrative and the prints of how God's truth resonates high and deep when you dare to listen. It is one way that “Imaginative Hope” can take place in everyone’s life.

 

 

 

Jonathan Rowley