Much to get my head round at the moment; not easy when said head is still recovering from the riches of our Rome visit. There was a lot to take in for all of us in our joint TSSF Area meeting yesterday, with a challenging talk and discussion on 'Adult Spirituality,' or, to be more exact 'Spirituality in the Second Half of Life,' by one of the contributors to the recent Chronicle magazine on faith journeying. When are we ever not on a journey? We're always in process, a work in progress I guess. I know my own personal 'inner landscape' has had its fair share of twists and turns; not all ones I'd have chosen either. But looking back over the ground I've covered these last many years, I now realise that one of the most significant concepts I've had to let go of is the assumption that all progress is linear. The image of the spiral is one I've found helpful. You can tell I'm a fan of TS Eliot, can't you?‘[T]he task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s live and answer the first essential questions: “What makes me significant?” “How can I support myself”? and “Who will go with me?” The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver… In other words, the container is not an end in itself, but exists for the sake of your deeper and fullest life, which you largely do not know about yourself! Far too many people just keep doing repair work on the container itself and never “throw their nets into the deep” to bring in the huge catch that awaits them’…”- From Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
Yesterday's speaker used several popular models which aim to draw together knowledge of life and faith stages to offer us helpful ways in which we can try to understand our own and other's journeys: mainly those of Richard Rohr and, one which was new to me, the model outlined in Hagberg and Guelich's Critical Journey. Another one mentioned, that of Alan Jamieson's Chrysalis I'm more familiar with and is my favourite, maybe because I'm increasingly finding myself respond more to visual imagery as I get older. This isn't unusual, apparently a renewed, (or even a new) discovery of personal creativity is common to the second half of life.
Either way, I've found some of these ideas invaluable as my life's grown and changed, especially when I struggled with the church as an institution, it's been like a lifeline for me to know that where I was wasn't all there is ; the pastures of Christianity are far wider and greener than the field I happen to be in. Neither does it do anybody harm to realise that the way of living of the cows across in the neighbouring ones are as valid as those of your own, however exasperating you may find them!
To return to TSSF - or indeed any religious grouping or community, the challenge is maybe, to reflect on we can prayerfully use tools like these (and they are tools, not the be all and end all) to resource and support each other wherever we happen to be in our Christian walk. Useful to reflect too, that just as individuals grow and change, so institutions and religious orders too, mature and change. Though the message and ethos of our founder is timeless, the way in which we live that out in response to society and culture we find ourselves merits a re-think.
A challenging day...