Okay, we’re thinking about real change and coming up with suggestions for putting our ideas into practice, but what’s really happening in people’s lives?” We think honesty about the journey, by holding our feet to the ground, might help us dialogue more than pontificate.
This section probably isn’t the most important part of Conversations, but it could be the most dangerous to leave out.
It’s possible to talk about authentic transformation in such a way that we mistake the dialogue for the reality, and end up never facing how things really are. Authentic transformation does not happen just because good and sincere people debate rich ideas about change. And it certainly isn’t produced when bored, hungry people get together to chase after a deeper experience of the Spirit. When we value an experience of the Spirit over transformation by the Spirit, we run the considerable risk of experiencing something other than the true Spirit of God and never really changing at all.
Careful dialogue among sharp minds and profound stirring within open hearts both have a vital role to play in real change, but neither by themselves constitutes the change we’re after. The point of a spiritual journey is knowing God in a way that brings us into life-transforming union with Him. And that transformation, if it is from God, will be evident in the way we handle discouragement, in our sexual habits, and in the power to hope and love when we hate ourselves and our lives too much to care about anyone else, to even think about making someone else’s life a little easier. “ Why can’t you come through for me? Can’t you see I’m hurting worse than you?” A person caved in on himself, Augustine’s understanding of sin, comes to mind. Authentic transformation reverses the direction of our soul’s energy.
With all that in mind, the editors of Conversations thought it would be good to get real. Sincere pilgrims sharing with sincere pilgrims at the level of their souls. I call it “Soul Talk”. It’s the kind of conversation where the Spirit’s life poured out of one soul arouses that already present life in another. Only if we get real about our lives, particularly about our usually hidden interior lives, will we have a good crack at getting clear about what will help us get on, not with life as usual but with authentic transformation. Peter Kreeft put it well when he suggested the spiritual journey begins where we are, then takes us down before we move up, way down into the Ecclesiastes experience (“nothing makes sense”), then down further into the Job experience (“life is too hard”), and then, often without warning or explanation, into the Song of Songs experience (“God really does love me. Unbelievable! I can rest, and move on with Him”). And then we do it all again, and then again. The cycle repeats itself until death, and then the Song of Songs experience becomes permanent, and forever gets better.
May this section of Conversations encourage us to navigate through dark nights as we celebrate the hope and the glimmer of bright mornings. And may it do so by never pretending things are different with us than they really are.