Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Developmental Theory Exploration...


The following is my response to Rachel Held Evans’ Post today on Better Conversations Between Churched and UnChurched Christians . I edited a few bits for clarity because in my spastic enthusiasm and un-contemplative fervor to reply I didn’t properly proof the response (like I will now).

My response includes the discussion of a concept I am calling “developmental theology” which merges the two things I have tried to study the most in my spiritual and personal journey of faith and life–psychology and spirituality…and the formation of both in humans. Namely this human. Like many scholars of human development before me who used their children as their subjects, having no children to take notes on I am relegated to the closest human specimen I have–myself.

Humor me if you will in my thoughts on developmental stages of personal faith/theology. I am going to be writing more on the subject moving forward, and adding a tab at the top of the site to continue the exploration and refinement of the theory, as it were of “developmental theology”.

The more I study and consider the idea the more my calling to spiritual direction draws me forward into it’s realm…as much of what I am saying from a perspective on this psychology/religion hybrid is innate in the education and practice of spiritual formation. How delectable a treat–a way to co-mingle the two worlds I am most passionate about in a soul-care method and practice!  Yes, I am a nerd. Yes, I am ok with that.



MY POST RESPONSE (click over to Rachel’s blog for the premise–it really is a great example of stepping back and assessing conflict in a very non-dualistic way):
Thank you for sharing your heart and your honesty–not to mention a great breadth of insight on both sides of a very sticky conversation (like gum stuck to your shoe sticky) about a very sticky situation.
I think your synthesis of the two universes and the misunderstandings betwixt and between both were quite on point.
As a therapist (and like you said, anyone with a basic knowledge of human psychology could understand) the critical piece to any conversation is being heard and compassionate kindness from both parties in a discussion, hearing each other. In psychotherapy we call it “starting where the client is starting.”
I think that could be paralleled to, starting where the other person is in a religious dialogue.
In yesterday’s post by Kathy Escobar …
http://kathyescobar.com/2012/04/17/rebuilding-after-deconstruction-1-honoring-the-process/
she discussed the elements of spiritual evolution and transformation. The idea is that for spiritual transformation to happen there must be struggle, questioning, and falling to reach a new level of understanding of other people and your own faith.
One of my favorite theologians, Richard Rohr, has an audio series I have been listening to on the same concept of spiritual transformation and the growing pains of falling down and growing up into an “adult” faith. He posits that we must fall, question, and, yes, sometimes even leave the nest we were born into to come home to a faith that feels real to us, not just a synthetic response based on programmed reason given by outside sources (like Siri from the iphone). Instead he suggests we need our faith and questions about faith to be felt, and sometimes (maybe always at some point) painfully felt, to be understood.
For some people, I think that understanding and growth may happen inside the church they were born into, or as I call it their “faith of origin”, but it may also happen by leaving–or in psychology what we call the adolescent to adulthood stage of “individuating” on the stages of human development.
I have been contemplating the idea that there is a parallel stage of development I have been calling “developmental theology” rather than“developmental psychology” –which may or may not happen in the chronological age order–where we “individuate” from our “faith of origin”.
That questioning, leaving, and finding our way back to God or a spiritual home, necessarily has to be hard and painful and sometimes lonely–like the individuation of adolescence–so that it can us to the next stage of a complex relationship with God, Jesus, and often Church. This may happen at 20 or 40 or 70, but it often coincides with late adolescence and early adulthood–like the psychological stage of development.
I know that depicts my faith experience and my leaving church–and the God I thought I found within the walls of church. It was as scary as running away from home. I know that my journey felt like that of a spiritual runaway, and my moving to a place of “unchurched” was a very conscious, very philosophically difficult, and a very spiritually alienating experience.
I know that my returning to a church, just recently– and finding that my conversations with God continued even in the (as the mystics call it) “dark nights” of spiritual solitude–has been equally complex. I have learned to accept my imperfections, the imperfections of humans in churches, and on my journey back to where I started I was able to learn so much about many other rich faith traditions of the world. I know that my love of God and humans has only expanded due to my journey away from “home” and back again–and the complexity of the journey continues.
I know that I know almost nothing, and that faith will always be hard, and unconditional acceptance of myself and other humans will always be hard–but Christ is my light and God stands with me in the shadows of the darkness, even when I think he’s not there.
And in my own “theological stages of development” I know I am nowhere near the end. But then again, “churched” or “unchurched”, none of us are.
Thank you so much for your words and I apologize for my long-windedness. God has blessed me with many splendid things in life–brevity was never one of them.

And I will emphasize–I am never brief but hopefully my meanderings said something that was of use to someone. Thank you to anyone who passes through this pit-stop on the road of faith. I hope you can find resonance and maybe a bit of bread and water to help you on your pilgrimage of faith.
And to quote one of my favorite individual and philosophizing troupe (Socrates and Operation Ivy):
All I know is that I don’t know, all I know is that I don’t know nothing.

What have you learned along your spiritual journey? What has fed you and quenched your spiritual thirst? What obvious places have you found spiritual comfort? What not-so-obvious places?

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