The Descent: Part 1

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One of my life’s greatest passions is to help people go deeper into their lives. For the longest time as a church leader I was always trying to get people out of their lives an into another life. I was wrong to do that. I found a better way when I decided I didn’t want the life someone else was offering me and instead I wanted my own life enough to actually get into it.

Some people ask me why I spend so much time working to produce all the content that I do. The answer is that I truly love sharing this aspect of life with others and I am always amazed at how transformative a contemplative life can be. I had a good laugh with my wife recently. I told her, “If getting people to mine the depths of life were a business, I would never make it on the show Shark Tank.” This is because doing this is really hard. It’s really difficult to get people to look closer, pause longer, or go deeper. We live anesthetized, numb, distracted, or blind.

This isn’t because people are shallow or stupid. It’s just that none of us can see what we can’t see. We are oblivious. When it comes to those aspects of our life that are defined in spiritual terms, or where we experience sacred space, or introspective deep thoughts, most of us are pretty good with our present status. In other words, we have all gone to a certain depth and going deeper is costly, so we usually stop at a comfortable place and just leave the touchy-feely, soft measures alone. After all, we have enough distractions in life to keep us ridiculously busy.

Every now and then something really disruptive and beautiful happens to us: we get the desire to go deeper.  Usually this is brought about by proximity to ultimate reality, such as attending a funeral, getting a dreaded diagnosis, or enduring some form of suffering.  Those kinds of events disrupt the status quo and if only for a brief time, we are able to gain clarity on all of our priorities. And in the proximity of such illumination, we begin to think differently.

We contemplate. We ask real questions. We bask in wonder. We pause long enough to feel the inward gravitational pull. However, unless we become intentional about this proximity, the clarity of this moment will pass until someone else dies or gets sick. If we are honest with ourselves, proximity scares us-but it shouldn’t.

I’m always saying that when we go deeper into something, that something becomes immensely more interesting. Furthermore, the process of going deeper is always a spiritual process. Yes, it is very spiritual to go deeper into finance, legos, food trucks, or binary code. It’s spiritual because as you mine the depths of something, you start to uncover the nuances that are invisible when skimming the surface.  The nuances are those aspects that bring out changes in our humanity because they change our perspective on things.

Whether we are into golf, or the bible, or business, our journey deeper enables us to learn that the discovery was never really about the subject at hand, instead it was about us and our maker. In other words, we started to build a business, learn a sport, play an instrument, but in the end those things built us.

Once you reach this level at something it is impossible to go back. Literally everything in the world is a springboard that can produce this kind of self-awareness and personal growth. That can be a hard pill for those who only have a particular expression of spiritual growth, but bear with me on this. If you wouldn’t use such words to describe your pastimes, then perhaps you were unaware of what lies beneath them.

This brings me to my last introductory point for this series. Once we gain proximity to that which is beyond and within us, we never want to live without it. In fact everything seems to pale in comparison. An ancient song rings true here when is says: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). Interestingly, this is a unique portal into our depressions and our life’s deepest sorrows. As James Finely says, sorrow is the skimming over of the depths of life.

The surface doesn’t possess what we really want, though it abounds with what we think we want.  In order to possess all the things that we think we want we must ascend. We must cling and claw and employ an inordinate amount of effort and then be able to sustain that over time if we would take hold of surface things.  But all the skill of the ascent is worthless at delivering what we really want. For that, we must descend. What we all truly desire is found on another tier, strata or dimension of life. Contrary to popular religious teaching, the spiritual path is always a descent.

In the coming weeks we will examine the descent much closer and hopefully I will inspire you to let go. The only thing you have to lose is sorrow. The only thing you will gain is your true self.


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