Several years ago, I attended a talk by author Reza Aslan where he described his personal spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity, and back again. To illustrate, he used the saying, “You can dig six holes one foot deep or one hole six feet deep.” The effort is the same, but by remaining in one spot and digging deeper, you’re far more likely to locate an underground stream of fresh water. Even a hundred shallow holes will never get you there. After a few years as an evangelical Christian, he realized that Islam was his deepest, most meaningful path to Source, and he decided to return there and dig deeper.
Likewise, over the last six decades I have sampled my way through a number of spiritual paths, religious institutions, and transformational teachings. I have been a Quaker by birthright, a confirmed United Methodist, a Baptist preacher, a Presbyterian elder, and a minister in the United Church of Christ. A casual observer might say that I’ve had trouble “finding myself,” but I can tell you that this is not true. All of it has happened in the interest of digging a deeper well.
The teachings of a young rabbi known as Jesus of Nazareth represent the place I have stayed the longest and dug the deepest, and I have found them to be a rich and meaningful path to Source, but they certainly have not been my only path. A Presbyterian colleague once introduced me to Thich Nhat Hanh and the practice of mindfulness. I trained as a spiritual director with a Marist brother who is a Jungian psychologist. My own husband is a transformational life coach steeped in Chinese medicine, alchemical healing, and neuroscience. I love the many poets whose creative journeys deepen my own. I feel at home chanting the Daily Office with Benedictine brothers, sitting silently in a Buddhist sangha, or acquainting myself with the spiritual rhythms of some of my family members who are Muslim.
Viewing Divine Source as an underground stream makes it easier to respect and even participate in the spiritual journeys or religious choices of others. As Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, and Unitarians (to name just a few), we identify our sacred writings, establish our institutions, rituals, and spiritual practices. We may be tempted to think that our own path is the “right” one because it is the one that has formed us. But if we somehow believe that this so-called right path is normative for the whole of humanity, we simply haven’t gone deep enough.
There is an unspoken recognition among people who find deeper streams, that though we have dug from a different location, we are all finding our way to the same Living Water.