At the same time I am a "genetic Lutheran" --the tradition of my childhood and the tradition that continues to call and sustain me.
Some say one either must choose a spiritual path that is wide or one that is deep. I admit I am someone who likes to have it all and doesn't want to miss anything with the potential to enrich this being I was created to be. Therefore, I maintain it is possible to create a spiritual path that is both wide and deep.
Last week I read a book that has been on my shelf for a long time, The December Project by Sara Davidson. The book is the result of conversations with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. Ever since hearing him speak at a hospice conference many years ago, I have respected his wisdom, especially regarding the spiritual work of aging. You might be familiar with his book From Age-ing to Sage-ing.
In The December Project Davidson and Reb Zalman discuss a key question, "What is the spiritual work of this time, and how do you prepare for the mystery?" When he was asked about his prayer life in the December years, for example, he said, "I just sit and let God love me." Davidson writes, "So he sees December as the time when you 'furnish your solitude with God.'" How good to practice now that kind of praying in anticipation of my December years. (I think I am in October, a time of becoming an elder, or maybe, more realistically, November, a time of serving as an elder.)
But where the book especially resonated with me was in the discussion of the wide or deep spiritual path. Reb Zalman classifies himself as a "spiritual mutt." He is
indebted to the lineage holders who keep original
teachings and rituals alive so that those of us walking
the wide path can take what we need and leave the
rest. If generation after generation hadn't preserved
the religion in its original form, we wouldn't be able
to adapt it for our own time and needs. We'd find
ourselves with a multitude of adaptations containing
fewer of the original touchstones, and our culture
would be impoverished indeed. p. 154
In other words, both wide and deep are needed.
He reinforces that when he explains that every religion is an "essential organ for the health of planet, providing certain kinds of wisdom the world needs."
…all forms of religion are masks that the divine
wears to communicate with us. Behind all religions,
there's a reality, and this reality wears whatever
clothes it needs to speak to a particular people. For
Jews, it's a Torah with a crown. For Christian, the
log-on to the infinite is Jesus." p. 93
Consider those words when you think there is only one path, especially a narrow one.
Have you traveled a wide path or a deep path? In what ways do you feel called to transform your path? I would love to know.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
The December Project