In life, we often look to find meaning in what we do in our education or vocation. We let our careers define us. We use titles and positions to illustrate our worth. There is nothing wrong with those achievements. Yet I have discovered personally and in working with people if that is all you have it can be a hollow existence.
In addition to finding meaning in what we do, we also tend to look to people, family and friends to bring meaning and purpose to our lives. In other words, it’s not only what we do that defines us but who we know. The problem is, people will fail you. They may not mean to but they will fall short. Some relationships end in strife and discord. Some we grieve in death.
We may even look to noble causes and give ourselves to charitable work. This helps. There indeed is purpose in serving the common good and helping those in need. However it is a job that is never completed.
All these ways to find meaning in life, in our journey towards home can be good and positive. Yet, if we are hanging our life on them solely to find our meaning, we will at some point be disappointed. What I am really describing here is a form of existentialism where a person finds meaning in their existence and the events of life, moments that produce ever so briefly a false sense of security and purpose. It is wrought by force of will: choices yielding consequences. Existentialism does not go far enough. It may be a descriptor of how we live moment-to-moment, but it is not a fulfilling approach to life.
Author and Christian mystic Henri Nouwen pegged it pretty well:
“I have an increasing sense that the most important crisis of our time is spiritual and that we need places where people can grow stronger in the spirit and be able to integrate the emotional struggles in their spiritual journeys.”
As we think about how we are constituted as individuals, we could be described as body, soul, mind and spirit. We live in a physical world where we eat, sleep and exercise. For some people this is the center of their life. It is important but it is fundamental living and in itself is not fulfilling.
Our soul and mind would relate to our emotions and intellect, to what we feel and what we think. What are our affections? How do we reason something out? We are moved by information when we learn of something significant. We feel in the moment and respond emotionally with joy or tears. Tragedies, pain, victories, triumphs cause us to engage with our heart and mind.
Far too often we ignore the spiritual side of life; that internal mechanism that connects us to something bigger, something eternal. It is finding a place to cultivate the spiritual, to grow stronger in who we are, who we were created to be.
At our core, this is why Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center exists — to be a place where people pause, where they can not just be refreshed and invigorated physically and emotionally but also spiritually. Canterbury creates a sacred space where people can grow in faith. From a Judeo/Christian perspective we would understand this as being created in the image of God.
There is a spiritual crisis in this world. I see it in the media feeds everyday. A “me” focused existence that demands my right to be and do whatever I want. Cultivating the spiritual side of life begins with surrender and sacrifice. Those are essential step in finding our way HOME.
How can you put a price or a value on someone discovering a deep truth about themselves, about God? It’s like the Master Card commercial that always ends with something being defined as “priceless.” Certainly Canterbury offers priceless moments and experiences. But there is a real price, a real cost to keep Canterbury operational. Will you help us with that cost by making an extra gift, a generous donation to help us keep Canterbury’s doors open to all?
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(Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. All donors will receive an itemized tax receipt.)