The highs and lows of the spiritual world are a compliment to one another. It is not only when we are happy that life is interesting, it is not only when things go our way that life matters. In any spiritual journey the bad times are as welcome as the good times because they are the moments when we are toughened to understand the word of the Lord.
I hit San Francisco in the early summer of 2001, after a meeting in the north of the state. Having driven down from Petaluma, I immediately headed for the town centre as I realized that I still had a couple of hours to kill before check-in. San Francisco was easy to appreciate more than most cities in the US because there were people in the streets, a rarity in other states, but similar to what I was accustomed to in Europe. As I drove through wide streets on a landscape that appeared to have been furrowed through enormous buildings I searched for the highest peaks and deepest troughs I could find in the city. This had been on my mind from the moment I had landed in the city the week earlier. I had made a pledge to myself that given the opportunity I would survey the town for its tortuous streets to test gravity and sample some of man’s more worthy causes.
I rounded a corner by chance and there it was. This road stood out a mile from the others. The first impression one got looking at it was like staring at an angled wall of tarmac. I could hardly see the top and it appeared to rise into the distance like a mountain into the sky. I drove up the street at slow speed appreciating each junction I came to taking in my surroundings and noticing the anticipation and anxiety that scorched through my every thought. Soon the car was almost vertical and I found myself staring at distant clouds. The small hill had become so steep that one could only consider it a miracle that the rental I was driving still remained glued to the road. I kept at it relinquishing any doubts I felt in a fashion of true tenacity. It occurred to me that this was the challenge I had been searching for and I knew that it would be slanderous to return to Europe without having been to the top of this hill. I convinced myself that life would be unbearable if I gave up half way. I kept the car in motion listening to the automatic adjust its gears to compensate for the incline and eventually without even realizing it I found myself looking down at the other side. It was a hell of a sight to take in. The road fell at an incline that was fit for adept skiers and it occurred to me for the first time that the downward journey would be as much of a challenge as the upward one had been. With the same determination as before I kept my nerve and headed down hill slowly again taking in the side roads at each junction and accommodating every thought that went through me. In the end it was over and I was again in the comfort of the furrowed streets. I had done it! I had beaten the peaks and troughs of San Francisco.
When I think back to this time in my life today I have a feeling of self satisfaction. The test was not whether or not I would survive the alpine streets of San Francisco but whether or not I was willing to give them a shot. Today I can tell you that to exist spiritually is to enjoy giving the expanse of life a chance without the fear of losing your life. One thing I can say with certainty is that as soon as I cleared the hill I felt empty. Bravery had overcome anxiety and I was now in search for my next challenge. This is exemplary of the miracle and the mystery behind the spiritual world. By giving the Lord total control of our lives he gives us the pleasures of adventure; at one moment everything looks positive, forward thinking as we rise to different challenges believing that we are heroes in disguise and then they toggle and we are then subjected to longsuffering. Life takes on an identity of its own and thrashes out instructions at us. What appeared to be so pleasurable in the past becomes a nightmare and we find ourselves again seeking his guidance to compensate for our struggles. To exist spiritually we must learn to welcome the good and the bad at all times. In other words to serve the Lord and accept bad times is to rise in spirit and be made perfect in him. In a way every torrid experience gives us an opportunity to gain in strength and wisdom placing us in good stead to appreciate the good times even more.
The milestones that are facets to the spiritual man are longsuffering, patience, meekness, humility, joy, peace, love and all other things that are right before God. By the will of the Lord the spiritual man is subjected to each of these experiences time and again in a cycle as each is refilled through his life in order to build his spirit and faith in God. What is critical is that he accepts all the milestones no matter how difficult they may be in order to fully appreciate the strength of the Lord. The bible tells us of a time when Paul and his fellow apostles where locked up in jail because of the doctrine they portrayed. In their time in jail a violent storm shook the prison grounds allowing the gates to fly open giving them every opportunity to escape the tortures of man and seek solace elsewhere. However to the surprise of the prison guard he found them resting in their cells after the storm having forgone the timely opportunity to escape. The spiritual man can draw on this example as endurance and acceptance of one’s state with the Lord. To live spiritually is to accept all things no matter how difficult they may seem. I believe the highs and lows would always be in our lives but we must learn to appreciate both as they are equally useful in our development in the spiritual world.