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Every once in a while I get in a more intense mood of self-analysis. Given my present life this is common on a certain level, but not always to such an intense degree. Nor is it always so intensely interested in wandering the trails of my past self, looping around the “what ifs” of life. This isn’t melancholy because there are highs as well as lows, hopes as well as frustrations, and as the story isn’t finished I don’t know what conclusions to draw from a wide variety of moments. But, for whatever, reason these sundry moments are pulling at me, leaving me in an odd state for the moment.

I’m thinking about my story and my present, my interests and my direction. I’m thinking about the decisions I’ve made and the decisions that have been made by others which have radically affected my life. I wonder about the small stuff that may have had a significant impact and the large stuff that may not have made nearly the difference in my life I assume.

If I were to write this story now — not that anyone would buy such a tale at this point — I think I would focus on a certain aspect of my development.

More formally, I could say this is the clearest sign that I follow the psychological path of other religiously inclined figures from history, and would fit into Erik Erikson’s model of a homo religious.  From a paper I wrote on John Wesley:

Erikson’s fifth stage, which begins with puberty, deals with Identity vs. Role Confusion. The adolescent is dealing with massive bodily changes as they begin to bridge between being a child and becoming an adult, not comfortable in either world. They are “primarily concerned with what they appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are, and with the question of how to connect the roles and skills cultivated earlier with the occupational prototypes of the day.” Typically, this means a reworking of the previous developmental stages as the what was once in order falls into disorder, then becomes orderly again on a deeper level as the relationalities which underlie all the order become evident. In a study of John Wesley, however, it appears that one needs to take a different track with the analysis. James Loder in his chapter on adolescence speaks of “two fundamentally different ways to go through adolescence.” The first is the traditional path as previously described, the second, however, seems to occur for those whom their religiosity has become “definitive for the totality of their lives” and for whom “personal identity as a member of his society was taken over and shaped by the question of his existential identity as a human being before God.”

In his study of Martin Luther, Erikson found that young Luther simply was not asking the same questions as others his age, but rather had jumped immediately to deal with the questions that usually encompass the last stage of development, that of Integrity vs. Despair. The homo religious, as termed by Erikson, seems older when young, focusing “in a precocious way on what it takes others a lifetime to gain a mere inkling of: the question of how to escape corruption in living and how in death to give meaning to life.” This person can “permit himself to face as permanent the trust problem which drives others in whom it remains or becomes dominant into denial, despair, and psychosis.” In the Christian context this is not simply attaching certain terms to broader religious experiences, but it is indeed a prolonged act of transformation which the very Spirit of God begins to work in the life of the individual, transforming the ego from its defensive posture and opening up the soul of the individual to see Reality. As this is ultimately a question of trust, this stage is characterized in the adolescent not by seeking personal identity, or asking “who am I?”, but rather the question is “why?” and the quest will continue, prolonging this stage and the identity crisis which it entails until the Face appears, the Face that will not go away, the Face of God himself. As Loder puts it, “the Divine Spirit dramatically and powerfully penetrates and permeates the whole person so that he is consumed by the Divine Presence.”

Loder puts it well, though maybe more dramatically than seen from the inside. Even as I absolutely identify with this description, I might term in a different way. I have been distracted by God. My whole life, at each key stage of development thus far, I have stepped away from what would make sense and would bring order. On the surface a person could look and try to analyze my fears or worries or gaps of being. If they entered into my motives and thoughts, however, they would see something rather more peculiar, an unquenchable yearning to become present with God, and let go of the standard order so as to embrace the infinitely complex, chaotic order of the Three-in-One. Not that I’ve done this thoroughly or completely, which leaves me in a bit of a bind.

It’s not the fulfillment of this I see so far, it is the distraction and the constant waves of pressing spiritual perplexities that push me deeper and farther. The reasons for this haven’t become apparent, and my present worry is that my persistent tendency to be distracted by God has pushed me outside the bounds of return.

Maybe not, though. Which is why I’ve developed an accompanying yearning to discover the work of the third person, the Holy Spirit, who pulls away but also pushes towards.

Sounds grand I suppose, but at times, during seasons it leaves me particularly perplexed.

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