while reading david g. benner's sacred companions: the gift of spiritual friendship and direction this evening, i was struck by the way many of the christian mystics have framed the spiritual journey. oftentimes, you will hear mystics talk about the way of Jesus as being one of purgation, which is a time of repentance in which we let go of our: false selves, sinful schemes that we suspect will result in pleasure and attachment to our material possessions; illumination, which is a time of growing intimacy with God's Spirit and an openness to His paths towards pleasure, beauty, goodness and truth; and finally, as we persevere in love of God and others we reach a place of union, wherein our desire is submerged in the desire of God and our identity is not so much based on what we believe about Christ as it is exemplified in the way we incarnate Christ in this broken world that is so desperately in need of re-creation.*
as i ruminated over the reading, i began to realize that this frame of purgation, illumination and union can really help me understand my occupational life up until this point. for instance, over the past six years i spent my workdays selling products i (mostly) did not like to people i could not connect with in order to secure the financial futures of people who already have more than enough. i don't want to sound like a martyr. most of the time i was paid fairly well for my duties, i wasn't oppressed and my menial plight did not differ much from billions of other workers in the world who toil for sustenance.** my response to my circumstances, as many of you know, was to bitch, moan and generally make my occupational plight a burden on others. i did not, in fact, rise above my circumstances like an n.t. wright volume unexpectedly bursting forth from purpose-driven ashes and, in general, considered my plight an opportunity to develop a shtick rather than an opportunity to learn obedience, perseverance and solidarity.
but regardless of my resistance to such occupational purgation, God, by his completely unmerited grace, saw fit to lead me towards a place of illumination or connection, where my commitment to compassion*** and the gospel of reconciliation can be utilized on a daily basis to empower a population that i know and love. i truly feel like i failed the first grade, but for some unknown reason has still been promoted to the second.
i guess what i'm saying is this. i don't know why God saw fit to grace me with an opportunity to spend my days doing something i love, after i failed to love Him and others in the midst of jobs that i hated. i don't deserve to work at a place like rectangle. but i am thankful for it and during this period of my life i want to be open to the empowerment of God's Spirit and obedient to His will, for i know that His Spirit is the source of compassion and the effective means of reconciliation, and i know that His will is to redeem all things, including people who were created in His image but branded with the label "retarded" and wayward pastors who couldn't seem to follow Christ in less than ideal environments.
as for union, i don't know what that stage will bring. but i do hope that it will signal the end of my current state of mindless enthusiasm wherein i have been inspired to tack "inspiraquotes" like "we can, we will," "fake it until you make it" and "i don't know what the future holds, but i know who holds the future" on my bulletin board.
* i'm pretty sure that i failed to use semi-colons correctly in that previous sentence. just thought i would save you grammar queers the time that it would take to point that out.
** i realize that, being a wealthy, white westerner, i would probably be sustained by some means whether i worked or not, but i'm aiming towards the idea of solidarity here. work with me people!
*** which i generally pour upon those i see fit in circumstances that i respect. yeah, i've still got a little, okay a lot, of growing to do.