When the Bubble Bursts

Shea: Our Lenten journey with Howard Thurman takes us into some very interesting territory as Thurman shifts focus to equilibrium and arrives at an illuminating vision of spirituality.

Tim: I’m very curious to see where you’re going with this.

Shea: When I hear people characterize themselves as “spiritual” (often with “but not religious” tagged on), I sense many of them imagine spirituality as a bubble that shields them from life’s complexities. Spirituality is imagined as a retreat rather than an opening to meaningful engagement.

Tim: A lot of Christians turn their faith into a hideaway. Vital practices like prayer and study become escape mechanisms. As the old adage goes, they become so spiritually minded they’re no earthly good.

Shea: I’m convinced Thurman would contest this kind of “spirituality” as not spiritual at all.

Tim: So how would he define spirituality in relationship to everyday living?

Shea: Here’s a little of what he says, “All the negative things are present… But there is something more, there is strength, power… a kind of concomitant overflowing of creative energies” that demand self-honesty.

Tim: He’s talking about balance, learning to take the bitter with the sweet.

Shea: So many folks are devastated when their spiritual bubble bursts… when the hard truths of life intrude on their nirvanas. I’ve seen them fall apart in all kinds of ways. Some question God’s justice: how can God allow this? Others give up on God entirely. Still others become so shaken they give up on life itself.

Tim: Thurman sees balance as a survival skill.

Shea: Slightly paraphrasing, he refers to this as “the ability to bring ourselves, our will, our feelings, our very thoughts and impulses under the synthesizing scrutiny of God.”

Tim: “The synthesizing scrutiny of God”—that’s quite a phrase! What does he mean?

Shea: He’s telling us balanced living isn’t about keeping negativity out; that’s a futile endeavor that he disdains as “flesh.” A genuinely spiritual approach integrates all of life—

Tim: Or, in Thurman’s terms, synthesizes it with God’s help—

Shea: Exactly! All of experience can become useful when we leave the “either/or” concept of balance to embrace an “all of it” approach.

Tim: I love this! It’s a hard idea for us, though, as we’re preconditioned to think in binaries.

Shea: That’s right. And Thurman wants none of that! It turns out that Jesus wasn’t a fan of binaries either!

Tim: We’ll dig into these big ideas in this week’s conversation. It’s going to be exciting!

Join us each Thursday in Lent as we delve more deeply into our spiritual lives with the help of the great 20th century pastor, activist, and mystic Howard Thurman. We meet each week at 7:30pm in the Resource Room of Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park or online at FB Live. See you this week!

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.