What makes a spiritual experience spiritual? I mean, besides of course–the connection to God. How does it happen?
We’re in worship, someone stands up during the prayers of the people. With a trembling voice, he thanks the congregation for all their support during his surgery, and there it is. The air is thick with God. We look around the sanctuary, and half the people are crying. What makes it a spiritual experience?
I go on a walk, three times a week. And then one day I see a bird, who’s on the ground. I inch next the bird and she doesn’t move. I’m so close that I almost touch her. I can see her feathers shaking and pain in her eyes. Then suddenly, I’m feeling for the frail bird, and she’s pulled something out of me. I’m connecting with some sort of grief that had been tightly, firmly packed away. And I get a fuller sense that I’m a part of the Ground of all Being, along with this tiny creature.
And when we’re at the bedside of someone who’s dying, and we read Psalm 23 and Romans 8. Have you been there? All of a sudden, that weird fear that’s been lurking about in the room all day leaves, the tension among the relatives dissippates, and the room fills with the waters of abundant life.
And what about the joy? What about that incredible love that gushes all over when you hold your baby for the first time? When you look at the paper-thin fingernails and feel that warm skin.
What makes those experiences spiritual?
Could it be the sense that we’re part of something larger than ourselves? Is it that something in our belly reaches out in the time when we need it the most? Is it the emotions that overtake us? Is it that our haunting insecurities are finally being matched with a divine acceptance? Is it simply the firm knowledge of loving and being loved?
What is it?