Spiritual narratives

sp-narratives123Somewhere along the arc between birth and death, between creation and annihilation, each one of us figures out the meaning of life. Whether we’re able to put it into words or not doesn’t matter; the life we live out every day expresses more articulately than our words what we have come to believe in our hearts.

We draw our conclusions — about God, about eternity, about moral duty, about the meaning and value of life — and we live them out. Our beliefs are written in the ink of a thousand daily thoughts and feelings and actions (and inactions).

We may have our doubts, but doubt doesn’t freeze us in our tracks. Like a man who is lost and too proud to ask directions, we put our noses up into the air and sniff out the way we ought to go. This looks familiar, we say. I’m pretty sure it’s a left here, we think.

Flip on the blinker, hit the accelerator, burn rubber.

In this way, each of us carves out a spirituality from the things we believe to be true, the things we reject, and the things we simply don’t know. We hang it all together with a story that weaves the events of our lives, our choices, our actions, our failings, our hopes, into a bigger story.

A local business woman was asked about her practice of giving 10% of her sales to local charities.

It’s like a karmic boomerang. When you give and throw it out there, it will come back to you. —aNiceWorld.com

“Karmic boomerang” is a spiritual framework that guides this woman’s life, and many others, too.

For some, that story is built around impersonal cosmic forces that counter-balance evil with good.

For others, that story is one of human struggle and existential solitude in a universe that is empty of meaning.

For me, that spiritual back story centers on a God who finds delight in revealing himself to his creation.

All of these spiritual stories are sustained by faith.

Whatever our conclusions about the meaning of life, we hold to these conclusions not because the evidence leaves us no choice, but by faith. We are not forced into our spiritual choices by irresistable powers that push us where we don’t want to go. We’re in the driver’s seat. We can always turn right instead of left.

We hold to these conclusions because we prefer not to embrace the alternatives.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. — John 3:16,17, NLT

That’s the opening paragraph of my spiritual back story, the Christian framework. It’s a story of sin and forgiveness, of slavery and rescue, of suffering and death and rebirth, of grace and undeserved love. It’s a real page-turner.

Take out a sheet of paper and a pencil and write out your own spiritual narrative. What are the things that you believe down deep, the things that guide your actions and how you interpret life’s events?

What principles of faith direct your life? What ideas have you rejected, and which ones have you embraced?

What’s your spiritual narrative?

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  1. You say that, “Whatever our conclusions about the meaning of life, we hold to these conclusions not because the evidence leaves us no choice, but by faith. We are not forced into our spiritual choices by irresistable powers that push us where we don’t want to go. We’re in the driver’s seat. We can always turn right instead of left.”

    What is “faith?” Granting that there is no incontrovertible evidence that forces us to conclusions that we are unwilling to accept, I submit that legitimate faith is more than simply a preference “to not embrace the alternatives.” It is an openness to the evidence that exists plus the integrity that moves us to follow through upon the conclusions, however tentative, that the available evidence leads us to. This following through sometimes looks like obedience. It will tend to produce experience that either confirms and strengthens our sense of the appropriateness of our faith or evidence that disconfirms it.

    Thomas the doubter placed his hand in Jesus’ hands and side. The evidence he received was not incontrovertible, but it was pretty good. He reaffirmed and strengthened his faith in Jesus, and, according to tradition, went on to lose his mortal life in consequence of that faith. I believe that he also gained eternal life.

    Carl Sagan used to say something like, “The universe is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be.” This affirmation doubtless meant a lot to him and certainly means a lot to a lot of people today. But it serves only as an example of a would-be faith, not only controvertible, but based upon virtually no evidence at all. What mortal could know enough to legitimately deny whole realms of reality to which he might well have no access even if they should exist? Why would anyone venture such a claim? I suggest only that we mortals have a way of looking ahead to scope out what practical implications a particular proposition may have for us and to determine upon that basis which propositions we will accept.

    A Mexican scholar once stated that she did not believe in God, since if she did, she would have to make a lot of changes in her life. She clearly understood the nature of legitimate faith, even if she wanted none of it.

    All of which goes to show that the openness and integrity that constitute faith are very moral in nature. We are responsible for the choices we make regarding which evidences we allow to persuade us or which we will even acknowledge. We are indeed “in the driver’s seat” and are answerable for the turns that we make.

  2. Hi, Im from Melbourne. My spiritual narrative begins with these two quotes.

    Wisdom-Teaching of Avatar Adi Da Samraj #1

    Wisdom-Teaching of Avatar Adi Da Samraj #2

  3. Charlie,

    You write so beautifully! I always enjoy coming here to read. I may not always post a comment, but I get so much out of your writing!

    It is hard for me to pick a “spiritual narrative” since there are so many wonderful Scriptures that I love. It’s so hard to chose just one! However, I really like Colossians 2:8 –

    See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

    Another one I often use at my message board is 2 Chronicles 16:9 –

    The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth to show Himself strong to those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

    I see you, Charlie, as someone whose heart is certainly committed to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It shows so vividly in your writings!

    Are you going to GodBlog 2006? I am planning to attend! Hope to see you there Charlie!

    God bless and thanks for your awesome blogspot!

    In Christ,


  4. Charlie,

    Be careful what you ask for. I had to write my worldview as my final paper in Philosophy class (Christian college), and it was 13 pages long!

    Basically, we are not alone in the universe. Our main co-inhabitant is God–Creator, Savior, Best-selling Author. We are also joined by extra-terrestrials. Those are best known as angels (faithful and fallen).

    My main guiding principle is that, because He is God, He gets’ to be the one to direct my life. I struggle with that, though.

    Great post!

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