Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Psalm 71 Maturity

Caspar David Friedrich [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As the years pass, our bodies, minds and spirits go through changes. Conventional wisdom says that as our stay on this planet is prolonged, we must experience deterioration in our bodies and minds. We have been taught that these changes that take place are negative and that we should fight them to the extent that we can with medical and scientific intervention. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, we must inevitably experience change in our bodies and minds, but none of this has to be viewed as negative or as deterioration. It is just different.

The changes to the body and mind reflect the fact that our purpose and gifts change as we mature. The body needs to be robust and full of vigor at a younger age in order to do the work of raising children and supporting them. As we age those functions become less important and our mental and spiritual development become more important. The mature body affords us the opportunity to extend our mental and spiritual growth. It is important, however, to remember that we do not have to become decrepit or senile, but there will be changes just as there are changes from birth to adulthood. The old adage “age is just a state of mind” has a lot of truth to it. As we embrace the characteristics of our maturity, we see that all stages in our life offer unique experiences and blessings.

The spiritual path is quite similar in that as we develop our character and experiences change. We must understand that the spiritual path is a journey not a destination. Each moment of everyday we have the opportunity to learn new things about ourselves and God. We are constantly changing just as the rest of the Universe is. All seekers have periods of great forward advancement, which are followed by stagnant, and regression phases. This is the natural order of progress.

The spiritually mature person may experience the dark night of the soul. This is a time in which our faith is severely tested. We struggle with having thoughts of limitation and separateness from God (they say, pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken). When we find ourselves in difficulty, we often feel alone because we are “in the world but not of the world.” We seem out of the ordinary flow of life (portent) to those around us and at times they avoid our presence. When we start to find ourselves slipping, it is critical to focus on the good in our life (praise) and our oneness with God (glory).

We can take lessons from the early days of our faith (from my youth you have taught me). Children do not worry where the next meal is coming from or how the bills are going to be paid. When we are young we do not think about arthritis and senility. We long for the devotion of the early days of our faith (do not forsake me). While over the years it is difficult to maintain youthful exuberance, spiritual maturity brings a deeper faith. That is not something that wanes over time. It is, however, different. What we lack in outward dynamism, we can more than make up for in steadfastness and conviction. The spiritual path is filled with ups and downs that we all must navigate. As we progress, the lessons become more difficult but the rewards are infinitely greater.

And so it is! Amen!