“Everything is Spiritual”
I don’t know where to start with this blog. So much has been happening to me lately. I have just finished presenting a 6 week course on basic anatomy and human biology to engineers and technicians working in the health sector. A course I loved to teach as I never get sick of showing people how amazing we are, how amazing our bodies are, and that amazingly we can live a long time quite healthily, even though this body of ours is so complex and interrelated.
Then I went on a yoga retreat, over the weekend, surrounded by beautiful, engaging women, a great teacher, a magnificent setting amongst the forest and with time to reflect and re-energise. So good for the mind and soul, and so good for my body.
I got back ready to recommence work, both in my church setting and in the research setting, where I am finishing a PhD . The 3 year anniversary of the start of it came up yesterday, crikes, and how far have I got!!!
But somehow I could not let go of a book I started when down on the retreat. A book that in some ways summarises all of the above, the teaching, the space, nature and the sense of peace being around it gives us, life, the universe, God and everything in between.
So instead of working, I did some reading!
It’s called “Everything is Spiritual” by Rob Bell. It’s a rollicking ride, with no chapters, and with his usual style of short clipped sentences. And I absolutely loved it. It’s like he is talking to you, to me, the reader, sharing his journey, his ideas, but more importantly his heart. He realises everything he has experienced and lived through has contributed to who he is today and there is a joy in understanding that. We are to embrace all that has gone before to move forward. And so he shares with us.
For someone who is a complex mish mash of things, part average scientist, part explorer of the divine, part lover of people and relationships, part pastor, Bells take on it was refreshing!
The book also speaks to me because his journey is also my journey, from a different starting point. His was from the conservative church, mine was from science and no church. Yet we have both come to see that it is not them and us, or you and me, or faith or not, or belief and unbelief, it’s this amazing, incredible mind blowing universe and life we all participate in. And it’s the impulse in this life to create, to grow, and to bond together in relationship, even in the midst of loss and sadness and grief and death that we both sense. There is something moving beyond our sight, just below the surface, that enlivens the world and pushes us to new insights, new ways of being with one another and new ways of loving one another. All of us.
We belong to something greater, because the something greater is the reason we are here.
Bell takes us on a journey, of the universe and us, as humans. He takes us on a journey of his own awakening to a larger picture of God, not as a person but rather an indivisible part of the process of life, and a larger picture of Jesus, as the face of this presence, to those he lived with and to us here and now, in this place. A face that turns things upside down, that stresses love and connection over empire and violence and inequality.
Bell takes us on a journey in quantum mechanics, a weird journey but one that shows that we limit our vision by keeping our faith in a box. Tied up with doctrines and dogmas about who is in or out. Instead he suggests our faith needs to rise up and out of the box and into the crazy world we live and breathe and have our being in. And Bell takes us on a journey of how we can see in our everyday lives we can be the face of this God, this spirit, because spirit needs a body. It had Jesus and it has us. We are to be the bodies the spirit uses to make change.
Yet Rob Bell continually reminds us that this spirit is greater than us, that it was there in the beginning, the beginning of the universe, it was there in the beginning of the planets, it was there in the beginning of the earth story, the story of life on this planet , and it was there in the story of us. And it will always be there. A mystery, yes, but one in which we are soaked and meshed in and enlivened by. As the book title suggests, everything is spiritual, everything is connected, everything is related. We are body, yes, an incredible thing we often abuse, but we are also mind, and soul, and heart and spirit, which is everywhere and in all things. All interconnected, all part of what it is to be human.
And with this insight Bell shows us how we can, by our actions, be the bridge across the gaps people have made, by how we live and work and play and embrace each other. By listening, and being present, by creating and working for others as though they are our brothers and sisters, which they are! And by living with the idea that life is a gift, an amazing, incredible, awe inspiring gift, even with all the frustrations, pain and suffering that comes along with it.
Thew, I highly recommend the book to you, as a way of being refreshed for the journey.
Because I certainly have been refreshed! In my quiet moments, I sometimes I have worried that I should choose one path to follow, one road to tread, and one discipline to hang my hat on. That because I have spent most of my life oscillating between this and that, one love and another, in my mind never fully committing to only one, I have devalued all of them.
Yet now I realise that while I am a curious mixture of a God searcher, church worker and a person who loves science and teaching it, and showing how it reveals the something more in the universe, it’s actually okay! Will I finish my PhD, not if I get diverted to books like this, but maybe it doesn’t matter anyway, it’s a fun ride and gives me so much in the process. I don’t need a PhD to be a scientist and many don’t need a church to be a person of faith. But we do need each other. As Marcus Borg once said, we are connected at the core, a deep, deep connection.
And anyway, all that has gone before makes up who I am today! A slightly crazy, almost 60 year old!!!
Thanks Rob, now back to my research paper!!!