Back in the early 80’s I was deeply influenced by Richard Foster’s book “Celebration of Discipline.” I became aware of the shallowness of my spiritual life. I had prided myself as being a “spiritual” young pastor with a desire to serve God. I never forgot the first paragraph, because it was very convicting to me. “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” In this blog I want speak to the need for “deep men.” Superficiality and instant satisfaction afflict many men on their spiritual journey when they continue to stay in their heads, that is, the control tower of reason and control, will fearing the depths of their souls where Jesus waits for them.
Men in our culture can live all their lives on the surface, while neglecting the center. “We are” says Richard Rohr, “a circumference people with little access to the center. We live on the boundaries of our own lives, confusing edges with essence, too quickly claiming the superficial as a substance.” When Paul prays that we might, “know this love [God’s love] that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19) he is referring to the center, where Jesus dwells. If we take time to listen, we come in touch with the cry of our soul at the center. The Psalmist put it this way. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42:1-2).
Rohr goes on to make this interesting observation about the journey. “We do not find our center. It finds us….We don’t think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” This means that we will have to be honest about our life on the edges (circumference) . This is the reality we have constructed for our selves, making us shallow people. Coming to the conviction that reality is at the center, we accept, admit, and confess our illusions about reality. The Spirit helps us in this process. “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God” (Rom 8:27-8 – The Message). Think of it – you are pregnant with reality at the center.
Listen to Rohr once again. “Our journey around and through our realities (circumstances) lead us to the core reality where we meet both our truest self and our truest God. We do not really know what it means to be human unless we know God. We only know God through our own broken humanity.” I want to get testimony to this reality. I stood on the edges for years, trying to be spiritual, as I manufactured in my own mind, spiritual improvement projects, that would enhance my spiritual facade as a “professional holy man.” It was a lot of work. But in the years that I have now dared go to the center, I have came to greater peace with the real me (the good, bad and ugly) and a deeper knowledge of God’s love. This is my new reality. But I have had take the journey to the center. Of course, you never fully arrive. It is a matter of always turning and coming home.
So my advise to any man reading this blog is this: give up the fight for your “manufactured” spiritual reality on the edges. Take it from an old “veteran” of the spiritual battles, it is not worth the fight. Real life – freedom, spaciousness, love, acceptance, etc. is found at the center. Trust me, Jesus waits for you at the center. Don’t stay in your head. Spiritual life comes through death, not manufacturing reality. “Unless a kernal of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it (living at the edges), while anyone who hates their life in this world ( going to center) will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25).