Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. - Buddha
There are those who think that the world would be better off without “religion.” Those who think that way generally have a specific kind of religion in mind – dogmatic, supremist, “my-way-or-the-highway” kinds of belief systems that are long on lists of rights and wrongs and short on the spiritual relationship called agapé.
They are generally surprised to hear that I agree with them.
That they cannot, or will not, make the distinction between “religion” and “faith” simply demonstrates that they have more in common with those they oppose than they’d like to admit. In their zeal to eliminate the former, they mistakenly believe they can affect the latter.
Siddartha Guatama, the Buddha, understood that spirituality is more than a set of practices. So did Jesus, the Christ. He called those who put doctrine before faith “whitewashed tombs.” But he noted that those who dismissed the spiritual in favor of the material had as much chance of understanding agapé as a camel had of going through the Eye of the Needle (and we’ll talk about that badly mangled analogy another time. For now, the traditional interpretation suffices).
A candle cannot burn without fire. What is it that sets you alight with passion? What makes you want to reach out to others? To make a difference in the world? For me, the answers to those questions change with the circumstances I find myself in; with the experiences I’ve gathered over the years; with the relationships I’ve come to cherish; and those I’ve had to see fade.
Someone once asked me if what I believed now was the same as what I believed when I was eighteen; or thirty; or forty. I hope not. What a sad life it would be if I knew no more now than I did then. No, my beliefs have changed every day and shall, I hope, continue to do so. My faith has never wavered.
In all of the shifting fortunes of life one thing has remained constant – the certainty of my relationship with Theos; with Divinity; with God. I put understanding and context around that relationship through liberal/progressive/mystical (choose your adjective) Christianity. But I experience it through the Creation that we all share, daily.
For our candles to burn brighter, our relationships have to burn brighter. For our faith to grow, our awareness of our interconnectedness with all things has to grow.
The old gospel song says you can’t be a beacon if your light don’t shine. I hope that, today and every day, we each take a few moments to make sure that the candle of our agapé relationship with the world shines. Making a difference in the life of one person, be it nothing more than a smile, or nothing less than changing the world, makes a difference in ours.