All spiritual journeys are unique, but they have common steps along the way. The steps are not set in stone, and don't always occur in a particular order. Several steps can occur at the same time. God will guide you along the journey. You will get off track, that’s normal, but when you do, ask God to show you the next step. When you are on the right path you will feel peace. God's communications are delivered in love. Use the feeling of love and peace as the central signpost of all communications.
In the first part of the journey, you will be curious about God and seek Him. God tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). God is hungry for you. In the words of a Sufi poet, "I sought Him for thirty years, I thought that it was I who desired Him, but no, it was He who desired me" (Benton 1978 Vol. 12 p. 788). God waits until He knows your search is genuine and then He comes into your life with such power and force that even you the great doubter can’t doubt Him.
God knows what is in your heart. You have to be open minded and willing. God won’t kick down the door of your heart. God will knock gently and wait for you to open the door.
If you are willing, go to a quiet place and ask God to come into your life. Ask this in your own words. Tell God you are sorry for not loving yourself the way you could have, others the way you could have, and God the way you could have. Ask God to show you how to draw closer to Him.
Go to the library or a bookstore and find a Bible. Ask your spiritual friend or pastor for a good version that’s easy to read. Begin with the Book of John or Psalms. As you read, think that God is speaking to you directly. God will highlight on your heart the things that you need to learn. Scripture should be the primary method by which you listen to God. It is written for you. Nothing you hear from God in person will disagree with these words. You will find revelation after revelation for yourself in the Bible. It will be about you, a personal communication from God. Join a Bible study group and study scripture in depth.
Join a body of believers and attend regularly. Getting together with people who are on the spiritual journey is very important. This will give you encouragement, direction, and motivation. Speak to the clergy about joining a prayer group. Go to several groups until you find one that is comfortable.
Listen to the meditation tape that comes with this book many times. Go to a quiet place with some paper and a pen or pencil, get into a comfortable position and play the tape. During the tape, God will speak to you in one of three ways: (1) in words inside of your thinking; (2) in images inside of your thinking; (3) or you will not get words or images, but you will know the communication.
Spiritual Journey | Conversion
After God knows that you are seeking Him genuinely, He decides to come and live inside of you. This is called a filling of the Holy Spirit. God fills you with Himself. The Holy Spirit is a part of God that comforts you, directs you, and leads you along your spiritual journey. This is called conversion, and it feels like being born again. As God fills you from the inside you change. You are never the same person again. You see everything differently, trees, grass, animals, insects, clouds and particularly people. As a part of God lives inside you, everyone feels like your child. You won’t be as irritable or impatient with people as you used to be. At your conversion experience you will get all of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These characteristics will be more and more like you everyday. People will begin to see you in a different way, even friends and family members will recognize that you have changed. Your conversion could occur suddenly or gradually over time and this is up to God alone. Some people need to change slowly and some people in the blink of an eye.
The Apostle Paul had his change suddenly. "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'
"'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked.
"'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' He replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'
"The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
"In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, 'Ananias!'
"'Yes, Lord,' he answered.
"The Lord told him, 'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and places his hands on him to restore his sight.'
"'Lord,' Ananias answered, 'I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.'
"But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'
"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength (Acts 9:1-19)."
Most people feel overwhelmed with love in their conversion experience like this report by Alline. "At that instant of time when I gave all up to Him to do with me as He pleased, and was willing that God should rule over me at His pleasure, redeeming love broke into my soul with repeated scriptures, with such power that my whole soul seemed to be melted down with love; the burden of guilt and condemnation was gone, darkness was expelled, my heart humbled and filled with gratitude, and my whole soul, that was a few minutes ago groaning under mountains of death, and crying to an unknown God for help, was now filled with immortal love, soaring on the wings of faith, freed from the chains of death and darkness, and crying out, My Lord and my God; thou art my rock and my fortress, my shield and my high tower, my life, my joy, my present and my everlasting portion" (Alline 1806 p. 31-40).
Chuck Colson found profound relief when God came into his life. He describes his conversion this way: "Outside in the darkness, the iron grip I'd kept on my emotions began to relax. Tears welled up in my eyes as I groped in the darkness for the right key to start my car. Angrily I brushed them away and started the engine. 'What kind of weakness is this?' I said to nobody.
The tears spilled over and suddenly I knew I had to go back into the house and pray with Tom. I turned off the motor, got out of the car. As I did, the kitchen light went out, then the light in the dining room. Through the hall window I saw Tom stand aside as Gert started up the stairs ahead of him. Now the hall was in darkness. It was too late. I stood for a moment staring at the darkened house, only one light burning now in an upstairs bedroom. Why hadn't I prayed when He gave me the chance? I wanted to so badly. Now I was alone, really alone.
"As I drove out of Tom's driveway, the tears were flowing uncontrollably. There were no streetlights, no moonlight. The car headlights were flooding illumination before my eyes, but I was crying so hard it was like trying to swim underwater. I pulled to the side of the road not more than a hundred yards from the entrance to Tom's driveway, the tires sinking into soft mounds of pine needles.
"I remember hoping that Tom and Gert wouldn't hear my sobbing, the only sound other than the chirping of crickets that penetrated the still of the night. With my face cupped in my hands, head leaning forward against the wheel, I forgot about machismo, about pretenses, about fears of being weak. And as I did, I began to experience a wonderful feeling of being released. Then came the strange sensation that water was not only running down my cheeks, but surging through my whole body as well, cleansing and cooling as it went. They weren't tears of sadness and remorse, nor of joy--but somehow, tears of relief.
"And then I prayed my first real prayer. 'God, I don't know how to find you, but I'm going to try! I'm not much the way I am now, but somehow I want to give myself to you.' I didn't know how to say more, so I repeated over and over the words: Take me.
"I had not 'accepted' Christ--I still didn't know who He was. My mind told me it was important to find that out first, to be sure that I knew what I was doing, that I meant it and would stay with it. Only, that night, something inside me was urging me to surrender--to what or to whom I did not know.
"I stayed there in the car, wet-eyed, praying, thinking, for perhaps half an hour, perhaps longer, alone in the quiet of the dark night. Yet for the first time in my life I was not alone at all" (Colson 1976 p. 116-117).
Carl Jung found this experience a powerful healing. "Among all my patients in the second half of life--that is to say, over thirty-five--there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook" (Jung 1958, p28).
Spiritual Journey | Illumination
Illumination occurs when God educates you about who He is and about who you are. You can't learn about God without learning about yourself. Illumination is life changing because by now you will want to be more like God. Underhill in Mysticism 1974 defines three characteristics of illumination: a joyous appreciation of the presence of God, a clearer view of reality, and a heightened energy state. Let God tell you about Himself. Ask Him all the questions you have wondered about. Remember that you are talking to the one being who has all of the information in the universe. Remember that God can’t explain everything. You are not capable of understanding everything. Some things are too complicated.
Spiritual Journey | Purification
Sin is missing God’s mark; not doing what God asked you to do. God asked you to love yourself, others and God all the time. God knows that this is the only way to happiness, joy and peace. But as we go through life, we pick up bad habits that make us miserable. We lie, gossip, eat too much, drink too much, treat our mother or father disrespectfully, etc. As you draw closer to God, you will want to leave more and more of this sin behind. You will want to purify yourself so you can move closer to God, and become more like God. God becomes the example you want to follow.
In purification you become aware of the sin that keeps you away from God. The more you purge yourself of these behaviors, the closer you get to God. Sin by sin, problem by problem, you remove the things that stand in the way of your connection. There is no room for pride here. You will feel humble before God, but you will not feel bad about yourself. God will correct you without you feeling as though something is wrong with you. Everybody makes mistakes, that is a part of life. God’s love is so gentle that you never feel as if He doesn’t love you. When other people criticize us, we can feel worthless and bad. This will not happen with God. You are God’s creation and He loves you. God forgives your sin and gives you another chance.
Many mystics carried purification to the extreme. They abhorred all desires of the flesh, refused to smell a flower, wore rocks in their shoes, gave away their possessions, ate garbage, did what they hated, refused to do what they wanted. St. Teresa enjoyed only one worldly thing. She occasionally spoke with friends through the convent grille. She became aware that this pleasure distracted her from the union she desired with God so she gave it up. (Underhill 1974).
St. John of the Cross abhorred all manner of possession and gave no concern for these goods, neither for food, clothing, nor any other created thing. He said, “Humble yourself rejoicing in the good of others as if it were your own. Desire that others come before you in all things” (Kavanaugh and Rodgigues 1964).
Do you have to go to these extremes to get close to God? No, God doesn’t want to torture you, but strong personalities sometimes need to be broken. We are not God and don’t know the way. Only God knows the way. Many people have to be humbled to come to this truth. Martin Luther said, “He whom God decides to use, first He batters to pieces.” This means that we must come to God humbly, not full of false-pride. We all need to spend time on the obstacle course of self-will run riot. Once we are beaten, and turn our will and our lives over to God, life begins to get good.
The closer people get to God, the more they become aware of where they have missed God’s mark. The purpose of this cleansing is to draw closer to God. Jesus told us we would experience life in full if we love God with our entire mind, body, and spirit. At some point, God will stretch your faith to the breaking point. At this point, God seems to disappear, leaving you alone. This is what St. John of the Cross calls the dark night of the soul. Here you feel overwhelmed by a feeling of abandonment by God. This is the death of self, wanting nothing, desiring nothing. When there is no more of you left, God delivers His best--union.
Spiritual Journey | Union
After you have been on the journey for a long time, faithfully determined to follow God’s will, you can experience union. In union you join with God in an even finer way than before. In union you become as much like God as possible while retaining your self (Underhill 1974). Meister Eckehart reports on his union experience: "The knower and the known are one. God and I, we are one in knowledge. There is no distinction between us" (Benton 1978 p. 787). "At the place of central silence one's own life and spirit are united with the life and the Spirit of God. There the fire of God's presence is experienced…" (O'Connor 1972 p. 11).
"Those who are in this sweet light know it, and remain constantly in peace and quiet, and no one scandalizes them, for they have cut away that thing by which stumbling-blocks are caused, namely their own will. And all the persecutions, with which the world and the Devil can attack them, slide under their feet, standing, as they do, in the waters of many tribulations and temptations, and do not hurt them, for they remain attached to Me by the umbilical cord of fiery desire...." (St. Catherine of Siena 1959 p. 215-219)).
You will experience bits and pieces of union along your journey, the sweet tempting taste of God is the culmination of your existence. Blending into God is pure indescribable joy.
St. Teresa details her experience. "In the orison of union the soul is fully awake as regards God, but wholly asleep as regards things of this world and in respect to herself. During the short time the union lasts, she is as it were deprived of every feeling, and even if she would, she could not think of any single thing.... In short, she is utterly dead to the things of the world and lives solely in God.... God establishes Himself in the interior of this soul in such a way, that when she returns to herself, it is wholly impossible for her to doubt that she has been in God, and God in her." (St. Teresa translated by Bouix, p. 421-424). Union is where truth, goodness, and beauty reach total perfection.
What are you going to do? What is your decision? Do you want to communicate with your God? Are you willing? I want you to think about some things. All spirituality has, at its core, what is already inside you. Inside you there is goodness. In all cultures, this goodness is expressed in the moral law. Immanuel Kant stated, "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing awe and admiration the more frequently and continuously reflection is occupied with them; the starred heaven above me and the moral law within me" (Pelikan 1990 p. 178).
If a stranger were drowning in a lake, this law would motivate you to help. Instinctively, you would be driven to help, even put your own life at risk. The moral law transcends the instinct for survival. This law is exactly the same everywhere. In all cultures, to lie is wrong. Even among thieves, honesty is valued.
When we survey religious thought and doctrine, we come up with many different ideas about God, but if you look at the saints of each religion, they are living practically indistinguishable lives. They are all doing the same thing. They believe in giving to others. To believe in God, you must believe that this goodness exists.
In his classic text, The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James proposes that all religions consist of two basic elements: the uneasiness that there is something wrong about us, and the solution that we are saved from this wrongness by making a connection with a higher power.
There is a problem with us. We break the moral law even if we believe in it. This makes us feel as if we are broken. Even though we would think it unfair for someone to lie to us, we occasionally lie to someone else.
Where did we get this good moral law? How did these laws of behavior, an inherent inborn right and wrong, come to be? Did they just evolve from nowhere, from heredity or evolution? People who believe in God believe that this good comes from something alive, and that there is more of this something at work in the universe.
There are two philosophical arguments against there being a God: (1) If there is a God, and God is good, how come so many bad things happen; (2) If there is a God, how come He doesn't make Himself more knowable?
I asked God these two questions and this is His reply:
If I had made my presence more known to man, I would have taken away the choice, the choice to be righteous. The choice to love me means everything. It is the decision around which everything turns. This choice, to be wise, must be a difficult one. There must be many temptations to choose the other way, the way of human flesh, and desire. I want the love of my people. If I would only do great things, greater and greater, giving everyone more than they needed, there would be no decision, everyone would love me. But that is not what I want. I want to choose my lovers. I want to decide whom I will bless with my gifts. I am deciding with whom to walk through all time. I am making this choice carefully. Sin is necessary for this decision. Free will is necessary for this decision. The subtlety of my presence is necessary for this decision. If I were to shout my voice, like the thunder of the universe, everyone would be afraid. I do not desire love that comes from fear. I desire the love that springs from gentle people pure in heart. There is no going through life without sin. There is no going through life without doubt. There is no going through life without pain. These things are important to my decision. I, the Lord God, will collect the evidence of the lifetime. I, who live inside you, know you best. I know who and what you are. I know how you feel. I know what you think. Ron, you are pure in heart. You would never hurt anyone for your own gain. You give to others unselfishly. You feel the pain of the universe and spread love wherever your foot falls. It is with you, and people like you, that I will walk through time with. You are my apostle. Whoever you touch will receive my blessing.
Much of God remains a mystery, but if we look at science, we find the same thing. At the core of science is physics, and at core of physics are the elemental forces of gravity, electromagnetic energy, the weak force, and the strong force. Stephen W. Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, details how little we know about these elemental forces. We can only make judgments about scientific things by our experience. We have never seen an electron, but we are sure it exists, because we have experience that suggests it exists. Science and religion both necessitate faith based on experience.
There seems to emerge in every person, as natural as the ability to love or hate, the ability to communicate with God. The experience cannot be taught; it must be awakened. It is primal, a seed planted by God, awaiting growth. When God is experienced, God is experienced as a powerful force of love and peace, a feeling of awesome power and truth.
Instinctively, we know that if we can get more of God, we can have a better life. Religion is seeking goodness and getting more of it. To be effective, religion must be practical. It must work. It must make our lives better.
Nothing will be more rewarding than communicating with God, because you were born for this relationship. You will find joy here that you never dreamed possible. Without God, you will never feel true peace. You will go through life struggling to find the answers, trying to get what you want, and you will fail.
At age fifty, Tolstoy began to drown in his own despair. "I felt that something had broken within me on which my life had always rested, that I had nothing left to hold on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An invincible force impelled me to get rid of my existence, in one way or another. It cannot be said exactly that I wished to kill myself, for the force which drew me away from life was fuller, more powerful, more general than any mere desire. It was a force like my old aspiration of my whole being to get out of life.
"Behold me then, a man happy and in good health, hiding the rope in order not to hang myself to the rafters of the room where every night I went to sleep alone; behold me no longer going shooting, lest I should yield to the too easy temptation of putting an end to myself with my gun.
"I did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life; I was driven to leave it; and in spite of that I still hoped something from it. All this took place at a time when so far as all my outer circumstances went I ought to have been completely happy. I had a good wife who loved me and whom I loved; good children and a large property, which was increasing with no pains taken on my part. I was more respected by my kinsfolk and acquaintance than I had ever been; I was loaded with praise by strangers; and without exaggeration I could believe my name already famous. Moreover I was neither insane nor ill. On the contrary, I possessed a physical and mental strength, which I have rarely met in persons of my age. I could mow as well as the peasants, I could work with my brain eight hours uninterruptedly and feel no bad effects.
"And yet I could give no reasonable meaning to any actions of my life. And I was surprised that I had not understood this from the very beginning. My state of mind was as if some wicked and stupid jest was being played upon me by some one. One can live only so long as one is intoxicated, drunk with life; but when one grows older one cannot fail to see that it is all a stupid cheat. What is truest about it is that there is nothing even funny or silly in it; it is cruel and stupid, purely and simply.
"The oriental fable of the traveler surprised in the desert by a wild beast is very old.
"Seeking to save himself from the fierce animal, the traveler jumps into a well with no water in it; but at the bottom of this well he sees a dragon waiting with open mouth to devour him. And the unhappy man, not daring to go out lest he should be the prey of the beast, not daring to jump to the bottom lest he should be devoured by the dragon, clings to the branches of a wild bush which grows out of one of the cracks of the well. His hands weaken, and he feels that he must soon give way to certain fate; but still he clings, and sees two mice, one white, the other black, evenly moving round the bush to which he hangs, and gnawing off its roots.
"The traveler sees this and knows that he must inevitably perish; but while thus hanging he looks about him and finds on the leaves of the bush some drops of honey, These he reaches with his tongue and licks them off with rapture.
"Thus I hang upon the boughs of life, knowing that the inevitable dragon of death is waiting ready to tear me, and I cannot comprehend why I am thus made a martyr, I try to suck the honey which formerly consoled me; but the honey pleases me no longer, and day and night the white mouse and the black mouse gnaw the branch to which I cling. I can see but one thing: the inevitable dragon and the mice--I cannot turn my gaze away from them. During the whole course of this year, when I almost unceasingly kept asking myself how to end the business, whether by the rope or by the bullet, during all that time, alongside of all those movements of my ideas and observation, my heart kept languishing with another pining emotion. I can call this by no other name than that of a thirst for God. This craving for God had nothing to do with the movement of my ideas, -- in fact, it was the direct contrary of that movement--but it came from my heart.
"I remember one day in early spring, I was alone in the forest, lending my ear to its mysterious noises, I listened, and my thought went back to what for these three years it always was busy with--the quest of God. But the idea of Him, I said, how did I ever come by the idea?
"And again there arose in me, with this thought, glad aspirations towards life. Everything in me awoke and received a meaning. Why do I look farther? a voice within me asked. He is there: He, without whom one cannot live. To acknowledge God and to live are one and the same thing. God is what life is" (James 1961).
Thomas Merton states, "And yet, if I hope in God, I must also make a confident use of the natural aids which, with grace, enable me to come to Him. If He is good, and if my intelligence is His gift, then I must show my trust in His goodness by making use of my intelligence. I must let my faith elevate, heal, and transform the light of my mind. If He is merciful, and if my freedom is a gift of His mercy, I must show my trust in His mercy by making use of my free will. I must let hope and charity purify and strengthen my human liberty and raise me to the glorious autonomy of God" (p. 16).
You do not have to drown in despair. No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, God is waiting for you. I pray that you listen for God’s voice. If you do, your life will change, your doubt will be removed, and you will believe. I want to take a walk with you someday in paradise, where we can talk about all of these things, where we can receive communication from God, and learn the secrets of His love. source :(Godtalktoyou.com)