So, Just What is Spiritual Deepening?

 by Christopher Sammond

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine from another yearly meeting contacted me.  His meeting’s Ministry and Counsel was going to have a retreat, and a large part of their focus was going to be how to support the meeting in deepening spiritually.  As part of M&C, he was tasked with leading that portion of the retreat.  He contacted me because he knew I had been helping meetings to deepen in their worship for many years, and he figured I could help him.  He began with the question “When you use the term ‘spiritual deepening,’ just what exactly do you mean?  What are we talking about  here?”  My off-the-cuff response was that spiritual deepening is growing in the capacity to open our hearts and spirits to the Divine, to others, and to all of Creation.

This was a pretty good answer, but a week or two later, it came to me that it was also incomplete.  Another dimension of deepening in the Spirit involves becoming more and more of who we are.

There is a discrepancy between who we really are, in the deepest parts of our being, and the cramped, attenuated version of ourselves we project as “us” to the world.  Part of spiritual deepening is claiming more and more of the dimensions of ourselves that we have cut off or buried in order to fit into the expectations of our family and our society and social location.  The truth of our being is that we each embody a piece of the Light, and also, that in our unique particularity, we are ideally suited to give expression to that Light in a very particular way.  We are, in our depths, a vast potential of expression, only a part of which we live out.  We know, deep down, that we are more than the slender slice of ourselves we present to the world, and part of our spiritual hunger is to live into that Truth.  This knowledge is often unconscious, but it still pulls at us, relentlessly.

I see these two processes, the opening of heart and spirit, and the reclaiming of buried parts of ourselves, as intertwined.  Spiritual growth involves an interplay between the two of them.  In our Quaker tradition, the realization that we are living a life that is a false front, we have named “Conviction,” and the glimpsing of the Divine prompting us to live into a life of integrity, wholeness, and Truth we refer to as “Convincement.”  The experience of conviction and convincement often lead us to choose to move towards changing our lives to live in alignment with what early Friends referred to as “the Large Love,” and with the openings to Truth we are being led into.  Those changes we have called “a conversion of manners.”  That process, conviction, convincement, and a conversion of manners, helps us move to close the gap between who we are in our being, and how we present ourselves to the world.  That’s how I see “spiritual deepening.”  And that is much of the work we do in Participating in God’s Power.

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