Many Christians are surprised that Christianity has a path. We are so steeped in a Western worldview that encourages a “get it done” attitude that the idea that we are on a journey for many seems foreign. Some would even go so far as to call the concept of a path as something unchristian. However, the idea of a Christian walk, journey, or way, has been with us from the beginning when those who first followed Jesus were referred to as followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4, 14, 22). This path, however, is not in any way a path of ascending, as if one is climbing a ladder. It is more cyclical and recurring. As such we can encounter various aspects of the path throughout our Christian journey at any time.
This path, however, is not in any way a path of ascending, as if one is climbing a ladder. It is more cyclical and recurring.
The path that I depict here can in fact be experienced in various and sundry ways throughout one’s lifetime. For this reason, what I present here is not meant to be used as step by step map to spiritual maturity as much as it is meant to provide the pilgrim, on the journey, with some landmarks along the way; landmarks which become deeper and clearer as we go. It can be said that this path is perichoretical in nature (a term usually reserved for discussions about the Trinity) rather than individual, linear or hierarchical. This path is a lived, integrated and intermingled path, not a theoretical pre-planned ascending up the ladder of spirituality to an ultimate goal on whose summit we join other successful saints, looking down on others who are still struggling to achieve the level of spirituality which we have attained.
The Paradox of the Path
Furthermore, the path is not a geographical path from one place to another. There is a paradox to the Christian path, as it is something we have already within us, which at first we have little or no awareness. As we journey however, we by God’s grace are given an ever-opening awareness of the kingdom of God, within us (Luke 17:21). It is this kingdom which we seek. The paradox is that we have within us the destination to the journey but are as yet not fully conscious of its existence or nature. Thus, the path of which I am speaking is a journey to ever-unfolding awareness of God’s presence in our lives, and our response to that presence, as it is revealed to us through an ever-deepening surrender to the Holy Spirit.
Thus, the path of which I am speaking is a journey to ever-unfolding awareness of God’s presence in our lives, and our response to that presence, as it is revealed to us through an ever-deepening surrender to the Holy Spirit.
For those outside the body of Christ the Holy Spirit is calling them to become aware of God’s desire that they follow the path to the kingdom, Jesus Christ. This is referred to as prevenient grace. For those who have responded to Christ’s call to follow, the Holy Spirit is guiding, counseling, and sustaining, as we journey together toward Christ-likeness. The path is a journey that includes a dynamic recurring cycle of knowing God, loving God, serving God, glorifying God and enjoying God that leads to a fully alive true self in Christ.
The Paradox of Unworthiness and Belovedness
I will never forget the feeling I had when I first responded to the Lord’s calling to follow. I sensed a peace as if I had discovered something of great value, something that I could just rest within without needing to fully understand it intellectually. And of course that is exactly what I did discover. I remember wanting to surrender all I was to God, and a great desire to truly know God. I joined a Bible study with six great Christian men. I studied the Scriptures. I joined a discipleship class. As I grew intellectually in the things of God, something happened deep within me that I can only describe as a gentle intimate touch that revealed to me the depth of God’s love for me. I had realized my unworthiness and praised God’s for grace, but now I sensed that I was also one of God’s beloved. In the midst of the paradox between my unworthiness and belovedness I went from knowing about God to loving God. Initially having surrendered to God’s call, and sensing an inner stillness that came with that call and response, I now began to sense God’s loving presence.
It is here that we can discover oneness with the Lord. Within this oneness we experience what we are created for. Within this unifying experience we simply and with a pure heart want to glorify and enjoy God with every fiber of our being. Importantly, I quickly realized that there was no end to the depths of God.
My sense of unworthiness and belovedness drove me to my knees, as I humbly came before God, filled with love for the Lord and a deep desire to serve the Lord and the God’s kingdom. I discovered the way in which I was known by God. It is here that we can discover oneness with the Lord. Within this oneness we experience what we are created for. Within this unifying experience we simply and with a pure heart want to glorify and enjoy God with every fiber of our being. Importantly, I quickly realized that there was no end to the depths of God. More exciting, for me, was the realization that the Lord had graced me with a life that would go deeper and deeper as I experienced various depths of surrendering to God’s call to follow, experiencing inner stillness, learning to know God more, learning to love God more, learning to serve God better, praying that all I do glorifies God and enjoying God in the moment to moment of my life.
Gene is the author of Knowing as We Are Known: An Exercise in Inner Stillness. He is also the Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Cocoa Florida. He is married to MaryAnn, and together they have five children.