My friend Dexter went to the First Baptist Church last week for Sunday worship. The week before that, it was a Sufi meeting. Before that, the Four Square Christian Church. Although Dexter considers himself primarily Christian, witnessing devotion in people of other faiths inspires him. The form the devotion takes is inconsequential to him.
He and I have discussed the nature of prayer and worship several times. In an animated discussion he told me he loves to be around people who express devotion to God. I can relate to Dexter's love of devotion. Our conversations have caused me to define more clearly for myself the substance of devotion.
There is something beautiful and remarkable in committing oneself to adore and cherish that which is unseen by the eyes but bright to the heart.
I once was invited by some friends to a retreat at an ancient Catholic monastery in northern Spain. We all slept in separate quarters made out of rock. Small windows opened out to a vista of a mountain landscape.
In a vow of silence, the nuns who then lived there gardened, cleaned, and prepared meals. Peaceful grace seemed to inspire their humble steps as they walked through the cold stone halls of the building constructed by Christians hundreds of years ago. Their commitment to live their faith motivated me to cultivate within myself a deeper devotion to a holy and divine existence.
My understanding of the essence of true devotion has been a work in progress, and my spiritual devotion has taken on different forms over the years. I've come to see that the changes correspond to a greater awareness of the immortal Christ, the purely spiritual nature of God's child. Progressively, as I've been willing to embrace the deathless, sinless, and pure Christly nature of life as created by God, my consecration to good expands.
At one time, abstaining from drug and alcohol abuse was my highest understanding of devotion. With sincere repentance, I daily prayed to give up reliance on substance abuse and self-destructive activity.
Step by step, spiritual healing opened my heart, and gratitude became a part of my daily devotion. Attending church and regular study and prayer have also become elements of my devotion.
My conversations with Dexter have pushed me further and prompted me to ask, What is at the heart of my spiritual practice, and how does it compare to the way Jesus worshiped?
At first I was reminded of a speech Paul made to the people of Athens. The book of Acts records him as saying, "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23).
Paul goes on to declare the existence of God, a spiritual Creator that "giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." He also affirms to the primarily Greek crowd that "in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring."
It made sense that striving to live as the offspring of God naturally impels us to understand the source of our being, our Father and Mother - Spirit - God. Jesus embodied the Christ or Truth of our being. He naturally healed sin and disease because he knew our nature to be spiritual and not material. Jesus saw God's presence, spiritual reality, in all creation. Jesus saw holiness when others saw disease; he saw innocence where others saw sin. For me, Jesus' devotion to God was in his practical love for others.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in her textbook on the Science of Christian healing: "The substance of all devotion is the reflection and demonstration of divine Love, healing sickness and destroying sin. Our Master said, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 241).
I have always loved spiritual healing, but as I thought more deeply, I realized that as a follower of Jesus, healing for me is a command, the essence of effective and practical spiritual devotion. Like Jesus, as I honor the Christ, - the spiritual identity of those around me - sin is destroyed and healing occurs.
My conversations with Dexter continue. And our devotion to God is unstoppable.