January 18, 2024

When I first started at Ardmore Baptist Church, a number of folks presented me with gifts to celebrate my coming as their pastor. Those gifts have always meant so much to me and made me feel so welcome. One of the gifts I received was from Paul Mullen. It was a book titled The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser. The book is an exploration of the specific characteristics of Christian spirituality and how it helps equip us among the myriad of competing voices seeking to claim our attention in our world. In the hustle and bustle of trying to get my feet underneath me in starting my job, I gave the book a quick speed-read and digested enough of it to be conversant with Paul when conveying my thanks.

Well, imagine my surprise when I received the required textbooks for my first doctoral class this spring. The very first book I was asked to read: The Holy Longing. Not only was I grateful to Paul for saving me a few bucks, but it felt like a divine confirmation that I was in the right program.

Rolheiser writes that every human being has a fierce energy that resides within their soul. And spirituality is whatever we do to try to direct that energy. What is more, is that Christian spirituality has a specific purpose to direct that energy towards the centering of Christ to our lives.

There are various chapters that have captured my imagination and continue to rattle around within my soul. One chapter is about what Rolheiser calls, the “paschal mystery.” And what he means by that is: “Christian spirituality does not apologize for the fact that, within it, the most central of all mysteries is the paschal one, the mystery of suffering, death, and transformation” (142). He goes on to explain that Christian spirituality is always seeking to find life out of death, resurrection out of crucifixion, hope out of suffering. And he isn’t just talking about the horrific kinds of suffering we all face surrounding sudden loss, death of loved ones, disease, etc. He also speaks of the “death” of aging and even the “death of a certain idea of God and Church.” He writes of how our faith goes through a life and death cycle over and over as our perspectives change and grow with time.

If you are at all interested in being intentional with your discipleship, I highly recommend Rolheiser’s book, friends. There are many other chapters that have piqued my interest. His chapter on Sexuality is especially interesting (how’s that for a tease?!). Rolheiser writes of how churches can play a role in equipping people to direct their energies towards the presence of Christ that is always with us.

I’m thankful to Paul for this gift years ago and how his gift has continued to guide me long after he intended.

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