I had the opportunity to pick up “The Critical Journey” and read a bit more today. This book is intended to describe the different stages we move through on our spiritual journey. It also describes places we get “stuck” and how to move from being stuck in one stage to beginning the next stage. The authors refer to being stuck in a stage as being “caged.” Today I read this regarding being “caged” at stage 2.
It is very seductive at this stage to believe that what is right for us in the faith is what is right for everyone else as well. We often believe that the religious or moral rules by which we live as a faithful disciple should be followed by everyone else. There is a tendency to become legalistic and moralistic, rigid in our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Punishment of offenders can become an obsession of those caged at stage 2. . .
. . . No one caged in this lack of acceptance sees their own rigidity. It is impossible for them to see it, since they are so sure they are right. Consequently, a group arrogance develops which is actually counterproductive to their cause but which they seldom notice. . . .
. . . The major difference between people caged at stage 1 and those caged at stage 2 is this: at stage 1 we think we are wrong and weak; other are right and strong. At stage 2 we think we are right and strong; others are wrong and weak. (p. 62)
Have you personally experienced this stage? Have you moved past it? Would you know it if you were in it? Or do you reject this whole concept as a “bunch of bologna”? (in that case you might just be caged in the stage!) I have experienced stage 2. I wasn’t obsessed with “punishing offenders,” but I was darn sure that I was “right and strong” and didn’t have a high tolerance for those who believed differently. But then life happened. I got kicked around and I learned that things are not really so cut and dried. I learned that each of us is on his or her own journey. That God is working differently in each of our lives and that we are unique individuals for whom he has specific plans. Therefore it follows that the path of spiritual growth and understanding will be different for each of us. That each of us will come to understand God’s grace in our own lives through our own circumstances. And hence each of us will have a unique understanding of grace, forgiveness, hope, love and relationship with God and others. All of this has led me to become far more charitable and far less dogmatic. I have jettisoned numerous “religious or moral rules” and as I continue to do so, each step along the journey feels lighter, freer, easier. Or as Jesus once said:
“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30 New Century Version)
Listen to the words of Jesus! We can all use a lighter load as we travel along life’s journey.