This is the abundant life: the renewed opportunity to encounter God with our whole self, to exist as those created to walk between worlds.
I once had a close friend pose an interesting thought experiment. He asked, introspectively, whether I thought we are physical beings having a spiritual experience, or spiritual beings having a physical experience. It is a great question. As I began to reflect on this, it occurred to me that framing such a question as an either/or dichotomy only functions to obscure the deeper truth… that we are both. Were we only material creatures, then our physical nature would be little more than dust and flesh, devoid of will, beauty, and the capacity for love. Were we only spiritual entities, however, we would be equally devoid of that link to the grand creation of which and for which we were made. Our spirit encounters the things of God; our matter engages the things of earth. Thus, as we look forward towards eternity, we do not see the Christian hope to be that of casting off our material forms, but rather of receiving a glorified body, resplendent in the absence of our current frailties.
The question of our material nature, however, is not the one often facing Christians today. Rather, our modern sensibilities challenge the very existence of the soul. It is our inner spirituality that is at stake, accosted by a worldview paradigm which threatens to sever us from the core of that which makes us human. So it was that I felt my inner being breathe deep the words of Dallas Willard in my most recent reading of The Divine Conspiracy this week. He spells it out plainly:
For it is in persons, or “selves”—and their experiences of feeling, thought, and will—that we primarily come to know precisely what the spiritual is. “Spiritual” is not just something we ought to be. It is something we are and cannot escape, regardless of how we may think or feel about it. It is our nature and our destiny. (Kindle 1636)
Willard does not mince words. That inner spirit is an inescapable part of our makeup. To deny our spiritual nature does not cause it to cease to exist, it merely cuts us off from that wellspring which leads us into the depths of True living. Furthermore, it divorces us from our ability to encounter the reality beyond the senses, that permeating presence of God and of the heaven which surrounds us, offering to fill our hearts as air fills our lungs.
To understand spirit as “substance” is of the utmost importance in our current world, which is so largely devoted to the ultimacy of matter. It means that spirit is something that exists in its own right—to some degree in the human case, and absolutely so with God. Thoughts, feelings, willings, and their developments are so many dimensions of this spiritual substance, which exercises a power that is outside the physical. Space is occupied by it, and it may manifest itself there as it chooses. This is how Jesus sees our world. It is part of his gospel. (Kindle 1692)
What a glorious thing! We are beings of two worlds, anchored in this great creation, but also connected to the heavenlies. God, who is Spirit; and earth, which is matter… we exist in connection to both. One realm is understood through scientific inquiry, the other through revelation and divine encounter. Though we may naturally gravitate toward the material, God is actively at work infusing the miraculous into our every step. Thus, Willard goes on to say:
Because we are spiritual beings… it is for our good, individually and collectively, to live our lives in interactive dependence upon God and under his kingdom rule. Every kind of life, from the cabbage to the water buffalo, lives from a certain world that is suited to it. It is called to that world by what it is. There alone is where its well-being lies. Cut off from its special world it languishes and eventually dies. This is how the call to spirituality comes to us. We ought to be spiritual in every aspect of our lives because our world is the spiritual one. (Kindle 1696)
This is the abundant life: the renewed opportunity to encounter God with our whole self, to exist as those created to walk between worlds. This is what it means to be spiritual.
How do you encounter the world beyond the senses?
NEXT WEEK I WILL BE GIVING AWAY A FREE COPY OF ‘THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY’ TO A RANDOMLY SELECTED MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY WHO HAS TAKEN PART IN THE COMMENTS DISCUSSION SURROUNDING THIS BOOK. FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE THE GIVEAWAY GUIDELINES.