Monday, January 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Conversion of St. Paul, and still more thoughts on spiritual practice

Last weekend I went to a conference. When I registered, along with my information packet, I got a rock. A little brown landscaping rock. And on this rock was printed a name in permanent marker. And I was informed that this was the name of another person attending the conference for whom I was to pray. And I thought to myself, “I hate this spiritual crap.”

Later at lunch, there was a discussion about what age Godly Play stops being an effective Christian Education program. One person said she found that it loses its charm for kids at about fourth grade. The woman next to me announced that, no, it was great for kids all the way up to middle school, and in fact adults love the stories, too. “They quiet right down when the story starts.” If they’re like me, it’s because they’re biting their tongues to keep from screaming in agony. But I bit my tongue rather than say so.

Why? Because it would be rude, wouldn’t it? to say I hate this stuff. Worse still, maybe it shows I’m not really spiritual at all because my spiritual practice doesn’t look like it ought to. My daily spiritual practice looks a lot like writing snarky posts on my blog and on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m still having trouble believing that this is OK, that it’s all right that I don’t do what looks like a daily devotion either of the liberal/spiritual or evangelical/religious sort.

I can’t help but think that the rock/prayer partner spirituality was used, not because anybody planning the conference genuinely felt deeply moved by that practice, but because the planners thought they ought to feel deeply moved and spiritually empowered by that sort of exercise.

It’s the feast of the Conversion of Paul. He had a dramatic experience, of course: bright lights, falling to the ground, hearing voices, and doing a 180 turn from persecutor to church founder. I wonder (to use a Godly Play term) how much of the emphasis on conversion stories in many churches is based on Paul’s story and the belief that that’s the way a conversion ought to happen. I wonder how long it will take us to realize that God meets us where we are, not where someone thinks we ought to be.

[Image is from the Brick Testament, which has a darn good representation of Paul's whole conversion story.]

1 comment:

it's margaret said...

Yep. good one, Laura.

(I hate the rock crap, too.)

You know, one never knows what one really looks like... even in a mirror, one only sees a mirror/reverse image.... So, maybe you have a very deep spiritual life --you yourself just don't see it. Cuz I have always experienced you as a deeply spiritual person --just sayin'.