Where do I turn for inspiration when I hit a spiritual dry patch?
Getting to know Jesus helps limit dry spots
The Rev. Paul Gray, senior pastor, Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt., and acting director of the Leo Center, Suite 100, 1 Riverfront Plaza:
The reason God created us in the beginning is for us to be in community with him -- to have a personal relationship with him. We learn from the Bible that God desires that intimate relationship with us more than anything else. In our relationships with other people, however, sometimes we get at odds with each other, relationships become strained and even the best of friendships can drift apart. That's because people change with circumstances and events. But God doesn't. We learn from Hebrews 13:8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." He never changes.
So if I hit a "dry spiritual spot," the problem lies with me. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." It's a very simple spiritual principal that God never leaves me and never changes. My eternal relationship is absolutely secure. But my actions can affect my fellowship with him. The Good News, though, is that when I go to him, confess the things I've done or thought that offend him, he promises to forgive me, cleanse me and restore our fellowship.
Every day -- sometimes several times a day -- I practice the spiritual discipline that the psalmist King David did, as recorded in Psalm 139:23-24 (I pray) "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." My experience is that every time I sincerely pray this prayer, then take the time to be still and listen, God will show me the area in my life that's causing a rift in our fellowship.
Then the principal from 2 Corinthians 7:10 comes into play: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret." My "dry spot" is gone, our fellowship restored, and 2 Peter 1:2-3 takes place: "May God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better. As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life."
When you get to know Jesus better, the dry spots become fewer and shorter.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Paul Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spiritual companionship can enhance journey
The Rev. Judy Long O'Neal, pastor, Centenary United Methodist Church, 245 N. Fourth St., and co-director, Martha & Mary's Way, a Lawrence interfaith ministry to women:
"Dry patches" are to be expected.
In fact, they are a critical part of authentic spiritual journey. The Bible, the central text of the Christian tradition, is abundant with references to being thirsty, wandering in the desert and/or being lost in the wilderness. Imagine the "dry patch" of the dark, lonely cave. Each of these images represents an important component of the spiritual journey. Wandering is a profound contrast to staying put. The desert is a very literal experience of a dry patch -- often experienced for long spans of time, even years. The cave, though dark and lonely, may represent incubation, hibernation, rest, dormancy. In light of these images, my first suggestion would be not to turn at all, but to intentionally experience the "dry patch."
Continue practicing the disciplines of spiritual journey that are most comfortable. Interestingly, relaxing one's expectations while diving more deeply into prayer, study, exercise, silence, music or art seems to expand the journey. Journaling can be especially helpful during this time. Writing is its own creative movement and provides record of the process. Journaling allows one to look back ... and forward.
This can be an ideal time for trying something new. A brand new experience may open a new window and expand consciousness. Walking meditation, such as that provided by the labyrinth, is a good example of staying in motion while dealing with the hard questions and frustrations of spiritual journey.
Most importantly, do not travel this journey alone. Perhaps the comfort of spiritual companionship is never more important than in these times. Remember to consult a mentor, share the desert time with a friend, ask for support and prayer from those who believe in their ability to share their own spiritual energy with you. Travel "between" -- remembering there will never be a time when you do not have something to learn ... and something to teach.
I am reminded of these simple words of the poet Natasha Josefowitz:
"My right hand is being held by someone who knows more than I, and I am learning. My left hand is being held by someone who knows less than I, and I am teaching. Both my hands need thus to be held for me to be."
Send e-mail to the Rev. Judy Long O'Neal at email@example.com.