"Blossoms in the Sand"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
I just came across some of the most recent statistics about the decline in religious affiliation in America - less and less people attend a church nowadays and many say they no longer believe in the “God” they learned about as children (this is especially true among younger people in the country). Interestingly enough, however, in the various surveys about religion in America, almost everyone claims that in some sense they are still spiritual—they may have abandoned religion or even rejected their childhood version of God but at some deeper level most people continue to think of themselves as spiritual.
As I see it, deep spiritual hunger is endemic to all human beings - a desire for connection to “transcendence” is rooted in our human DNA. So it’s no surprise to me at all when people report that, at some level, they have a sense of their spirituality even if they have rejected religion or have turned away from their previously-held ideas about “God.”
In a very insightful observation about the essential spiritual nature of human beings, Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko suggest:
The spiritual or mystical journey is the heartbeat of humanity,
always present even if hidden beneath the surface.
It is the most primal calling of every human heart.
Oneness is at the core of our being and within all life.
Each cell embodies and reflects its primal oneness – the unity of all being.
The journey home of the soul back to the Source is a journey back to unity,
to the mystical realization that we are all the
the Divine Oneness.
I am reminded of something author and poet, Christian Wiman, wrote about a few years back as he described his own spiritual journey in his book My Bright Abyss:Mediations of a Modern Believer. Early in his life, Mr. Wiman had abandoned his strongly-held, traditional religious beliefs and pursued a career of teaching and writing poetry. He explains that, throughout this period of his life, even though he thought of himself as a “non-believer,” there was always a deep part of him that hungered for something more, something lay hidden within his core seeking union with a “transcendence” beyond his own individual “self.”
Later is his life, Chris Wiman was diagnosed with cancer and it was then that he realized that, while he may have turned away from religion and rejected his ideas about God, an all-abiding Presence of “God” had always been seeking union with him.
In his book, Wiman offers this beautiful description of his newly-found spiritual awakening:
It seemed as if I happened upon some rare flower deep in the desert,
and even though I was just discovering it,
it had been blooming impossibly year after parched year in me,
surviving all the seasons of my unbelief.
‘Oh God, is my hunger a hunger for you,
or is it evidence of your hunger for me?’
I love that last line, it rings so clear and true for me. I am convinced that our deep spiritual hunger is not so much our desire to be connected to a transcendent power but rather it is symptomatic of “God’s” deep desire for union with us. The divine “One” is always drawing us into Oneness.
The mystic Sufi poet, Rumi, put it this way:
Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret
and in exchange gain the ocean.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An ocean wooing a drop?
What you seek is seeking you.