Monday, March 29, 2010

BOLO: Spiritual Reality

Be On the Look Out for something extraordinary in the ordinary.

Various branches and schools of philosophy have mused for years, really since the invention of musing, about the relationship of the physical body, the mind, and the spirit or what some call the "essence." This preoccupation with these three elements is understandable; it is truly a fascinating subject. The three are functionally distinct yet highly interdependent. As neuroscience delves more deeply into the mysteries of the human brain the relationship between the physical body and the mind becomes even more interesting. Emotion, personality, memory, instincts, intuition, all of these are hardwired and filed away somewhere in the folds of the human brain. So then, is that which we call a "mind" really just another somatic organ? On the reverse side, it has been proven that psychological depression actually has physical symptoms as well and those who are in a happy or content frame of mind generally have more energy than those who do not.

Fascinating as that topic may be, it is the spiritual element which concerns me today. The term "spirit" can refer to many different things depending on your background, beliefs, and taste in movies. Some believe the spirit to be that eternal part of you which continues after you die as a ghost or an angel. Some believe it is your personality, or that force which drives the vehicle of the body through life made of dreams, desires, and pluck. Sometimes we refer to the "human spirit" as the sort of transcendent attribute common to every human on the planet, that which links us together as a species. But all seem to agree that the spirit is metaphysical.

Still, on this side of the bright light, the spirit is trapped inside a physical body and undeniably effected by physical and mental influences. For example, when someone is sick, tired, cold, etc. they are also often in "low-spirits." Similarly, someone excited, who's physical body is buzzing with adreneline, is described as being in "high-spirits." Likewise, we know that when we are emotionally sad or physically ill, we begin to question our spiritual health as well. At the end of a long battle with a disease, we may see someone lose the will to live; the driving force of the spirit is weak. Though the exact nature of the relationship is hard to describe, the relationship exists.

If you believe that the spirit continues after the end of the body or in an afterlife, then that makes us mortal yet oddly eternal creatures. Rather than just an interesting quirk, this changes how we live mortally. The specific manner of change depends mostly on your specific beliefs. This is the point where I tighten the lens even more and talk about Jesus.

Christians often talk about spiritual life and spiritual death. In a nutshell, this has to do with that inexplicable change that takes place in our spirit when we release our life to Jesus and accept His sacrifice. We use words like, "rebirth", "regeneration", or "redemption", but they all boil down to a new life in our spirit. Specifically, the life of Jesus. When we release the authority of our spiritual life, submitting it to God, we're spiritually revived; entirely new, yet retaining the essential elements of who we are.
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God [Jesus Christ], who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galations 2:20 
Actually, that verse explains the phenomenon much better than I did. The process sounds a bit weird and maybe even spooky, but then, what spiritual things aren't a little weird? And therein lies the trouble. Because spiritual things are,in fact, metaphysical and extrasensory they are not only exempt from empirical observation, it is hard to figure out what to do about them.
This is an excerpt from today's reading in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:
"Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord's surprise visits. It is not service that matters, but intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This will give our life the attitude of child-wonder which He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious (that is, using religion as a higher kind of culture) and be spiritually real."
"Spiritually real." This is the hard-to-define goal that we strive for while the clock is still ticking, spiritual reality. Not simply acknowledging that we have something called a spirit, but letting it be as real as our physical body or mental processes. Or maybe we could call it the manifestation of the spiritual in the physical, or, even better:
"...carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." 2 Cor 4:10
Chambers says that being "spiritual real" means living in the expectation of seeing Jesus Christ, His life, His power, and His purposes where we least expect them. Not overspiritualizing or reading hidden meaning into ordinary things, but, in general terms, seeing the inherently extraordinary quality of ordinary things. The result of such a life is, as Chambers describes it, an attitude of "child-wonder."
This life could be and, no doubt, will be described as naive and impractical. But, when the firm foundation of what is commonly known as "reality" begins to crumble and disappoint, as it inevitably will, that child-like spirit not only endures, but continues to see Jesus even as the security of the world wanes.

Sarah Elizabeth

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