It seems interesting to me that I find myself currently doing a course in "Spiritual Direction for Children" and at the same time about to start a role focused on Spirituality in Aged Care. I've been reading and looking into these two very different seasons of life (because I feel way out of my depth!) and it's making me think about the beauty of God that welcomes and interacts with all of us; not because of our ability to think correctly, but because we are, already the beloved. Theologian John Swinton, drawing from ethicist Stephen G. Post, when speaking on Dementia*, asserts that Western culture is a "hypercognitive society". Meaning; that we are a society that prizes intellect and reason above love, community, relationships, and being together. When the ability to remember goes, or when circumstances take away 'reason', if mental health or disability means that we never really had the 'prescribed standard' - the Western mind sadly finds it incredibly difficult to maintain connection and relationship. The result is withdrawal. Stigma. Shutting down.
Devastating. I wish that I didn't resonate with the above statement – I wish that I had not watched it play out time and time again – I wish that I myself didn't step back instead of stepping in. Sadly, I think Post and Swinton are right. Though this is the hope of living a life in the dance with the Divine... because I wholeheartedly believe that God is for all of us. God is not only for us when we 'know correctly', or when we can follow the 'rules' or have our lines in the sand. God is not only for us if we can articulate 'the gospel' or make a decisive statement. God is for us because we are human. Because we are made from love, by love, and for love - and that is enough.
I dare say that I think that God is the antithesis of a hypercognitive society. Connection, community, dignity, and love are what is fought for, love is at the center. It has to be when the very nature of God is Love.
For those of us who doubt, who have nothing figured out. Who struggle to find God in a book, and have lost connection and relationship on the grounds of 'thoughts' - God is with us.
God is with the child playing in the sand and pointing at the stars. God is sitting with our loved one who no longer remembers who they are or who we are, God is with the mentally ill and the disabled, with the illiterate and the poor – because God isn't just in a book. She/He/They never were.
God has come to be with us, covered in flesh and blood and filled with breath and Spirit – and Love asks us to do the same for all of creation. Community, relationship, Love, and being together. And it is in these thoughts that I wonder how God speaks.
In my own spiritual journey, I've moved away from my Christian fundamentalist roots that summed up everything with "it's in the bible". I watched a book be used as a weapon to wound people, and at times to destroy them. I believe the 2000 year old book, became an idol that I was not willing to sacrifice people too. The bible is a beautiful and at times perplexing book that lead me to learn about the character of God and holds stories of wisdom, but I will no longer read it as a Literal text but a literary text (as Jared Byas would say). Though largely, my rejection of this idolatry of scriptures is because it leaves little room for the most marginalized. It leaves no room for the dementia patient or the child, the mentally ill. The upside-down kingdom is such good news to me/ to us - because it preaches again and again that it is exactly those who are left out in this society who are the ones that God welcomes first.
This road is a much vaguer one. I've been warned it's a dangerous one, and one that will lead me astray. It is true, when reason and intellect are toppled off the top spot and replaced with Love, things can get a little wild. Unpredictable. Messy. Hard. Uncomfortable.
I'm not saying reason and intellect aren't important, and I'm not saying the sacred texts aren't important. I'm just wondering, contemplating if you will, the Christ that is not dead, but is very much alive. It was this same Christ who breathed the Spirit into the world with the promise that we would not be left as orphans, but Spirit would be with us. The book is not finished. The story is still being written.
And all of us, in all of our circumstances, our abilities, and our disabilities, in all the stages of our lives matter to our Beloved.
Questions to Ponder: - What does the spirituality of a child look like? Do they already have it - or does it need to be taught?
- When cognitive awareness fades or is taken by illness, disability or circumstance - what happens to that person's spirituality?
- How does God speak into the world and into your being?
- How do you experience the movement of God in the world? How do you 'spend time in relationship' with the Divine?
* Dr. John Swinton, Spirituality and Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.