The Spiritual Waltz

I was asked by The Transit Lounge to write about spiritual health. The result is at and I have copied it below.......


A troubled village called on a wise, old woman - a crone - from another village to help it solve its significant problems. The crone arrived the next day and the villagers gathered to hear her wisdom.

She said, "In seeking, you will only ever find what you really already know".

She then asked the villagers to put up their hands up if they knew what she was going to tell them. No hands were raised.

"Well then, as you only ever find what you really already know, I can't help you. Goodbye!"

This pattern continued several more times as various combinations of villagers put up their hands or did not do so. Each time the crone frustrated the crowd telling them that because some knew and some didn't know, they could just help each other. Each visit ended with "goodbye". It seemed to the villagers that nothing helpful was ever revealed.

Finally, after several such visits, the crone's real message began to surface. One of the villagers had a dream and shared it with the rest. She told them that the village had the resources within and amongst its members to respond to its problems. All that was needed was for the resources to be considered afresh and for the villagers to humbly realise their own place in the village's problems in order to make possible a deeper sense of ‘being together'.

This is a story about a journey into spiritual health - of transformation into a realm of wholeness. The healthy spirituality inherent in the story comes about because we are confronted with three questions as we read:

1. What are the ‘ways of being' and the gifts that:

•I don't yet know of within myself?

•I don't yet know of within my neighbour?

•My neighbour doesn't yet know about in me?

•None of us have yet uncovered in all creation?

2. What is my contribution to the very things that concern me?

3. How do I join the life-giving movements in all creation to bring about wholeness?

For some of us these may not sound like spiritual questions. Yet I'm suggesting that they reflect the essence of divine mystery, as it is expressed in several spiritual traditions.

For example, these three questions express the Christian possibility that the mystery of God is Trinitarian.

The first question, using traditional Trinitarian language, is the ‘Father' question. Just as ‘Father' was the language of the day for ‘source of life', this question focuses us on the diversity of life that the source creates. It does this by having us uncover that diversity and also having us make it known to each other!

The second question is the ‘Son' question. Again, in the language of the day, sons shone the light of the family story into each new generation. In the Christian story, the divine light is said to shine through humanity, but only when humanity assumes a mantle of vulnerability as Jesus did. In other words we have to recognise our connectedness to the whole creation. The second question confronts us with that vulnerability and our place in all that happens around us.

The third question is a question that encourages us to join into God's spirit of wholeness. Whether we see it as a mighty wind or a gentle breeze, the Spirit is continually placing the remnants of the old together to create something new. If we ask the first and second questions, we'll find we can't help but ask the third question too. And we'll start pulling those remnants together ourselves and becoming more and more a part of the Spirit's creative process.

Does a healthy spirituality mean that we have to start with question one and ask our way through two and three? Well yes, but it's not just a linear process and it's not a hierarchy of questions. Many conversion efforts try to transform the world without understanding gifts and vulnerabilities. I suggest such changes or conversions lead to dead ends.

But if we hold our understanding of gifts, our understanding of vulnerability, and the ways we can move with the Spirit together, we'll be presented with new parts of creation to get to know. So we'll find ourselves - very positively - back at question one again as we transform.

A healthy spirituality becomes circular and each question becomes interdependent with the other as more of creation joins the circle. This was a fact recognised by the Cappadocian philosophers, early Christians whose term for Holy Trinity was ‘Perichoresis'. Literally that term means ‘dance' or ‘interpenetration' - definitions dripping with inter-relationship and positive circularity.

So we might say that a healthy spirituality is a dance in three - a waltz. And, if it is not pushing the dance metaphor too far, I'd suggest that Jesus practised his waltz pattern using the steps of a foxtrot (four beat) - four distinct but inter-related ministry practices. Trust Jesus to do that! But I mention that just to whet your appetite for further exploration.

For now, let's just think about those three questions as we begin to waltz together.

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