Is this all there is?
For so many years, this question plagued me. From one spiritual experience to another, one masterfully produced church service to another, the ache for something that transcended performance and self-help was palpable and insatiable. And for many of those years I thought I was the only one. I thought that the modern world of self-help sermons and smoke-machine spirituality was working for everyone but me. Well, that's not completely true. I knew it wasn't working for my non-religious friends. They were finding their self-help the traditional way: through business seminars, the latest New York Times bestseller, or their favorite TV personality. What unsettled me was how similar it all felt, the do-betterness of it, the live by your feelings mantras, the willingness to outsource our one and only life to the people who approve or (more likely) disapprove of our behavior.
But then I started listening. Listening to my own story, listening to the stories of others, listening past the quick and packaged answers that we've all prepared for Instagram. First I heard complexity, then I heard fear, then I heard pain, and when I listened all the way in, I heard hope. An insatiable search for hope, one that could not successfully be numbed by more likes, better cocktails, better church buildings or a higher paying job. I have come to see that it was a hope for a sacred life. One where the ephemeral beauty and goodness lurking around every corner was findable and knowable. One where we could love our enemies. One where even our darkest stories mattered.
And what I found was that I was not alone. I found people of all ages, all religious backgrounds and diverse spiritual experiences hungering in the dark. Uninspired by the increasingly tepid and trite words of cultural Christianity, they were on the same hunt as I was: to find the magical heart of the Jesus Way, liberated from its contemporary packaging, and truly useful to renovating life from the drudgery and confusion that so often subsume it. I began to stitch together the best wisdom I knew from dozens of volumes of Christian writing (this century and others), merging it with the best exegetical work I knew how to do on the source words themselves (the Bible) and with the guidance of the spiritual giants in my own life, began to frame up a deep but ultimately accessible vision for a Gospel Worth Living.
ThirtySixWords is the summation and the framework for that ongoing work. Starting with the six frames of human identity I found in the Jewish Shema (Deuteronomy 6) and trusting that Jesus had used it as the defining character of His ministry for a reason, the sacred core of all of our everydays found its words: Heart, Mind, Soul, Body, Loves, & Culture. Within each frame was laid out six inflection points, six frames of hope-full living. Six words per frame, six frames... ThirtySixWords. The world itself was created with a word and saved with a Word. I have come to see our words as spaces where we attempt to frame up our living and hope for the holy to come in.
So what is the answer to the question: "Is this all there is?"
Thankfully, "This" whatever you are experiencing of it, is not all there is. And while the bulk of your teachers, pastors (unfortunately) and patriarchs have succumbed to self-help and religion, this is not all there is. Sourced by a core theological FOUNDATION, the work of ThirtySixWords is to call all of us to a deeper life, one where we begin to see the worthiness of every story, ours and those of people we'd rather leave behind.
Our problem is that we are not conversant in the ways of sacred hope. For all of human history the unforced rhythms of grace have been available to individual lives and communities. These open doors to deep change, relational connectedness and liberation from vice are hard-coded into creation and the human experience; they are the words which make the paragraphs of our lives. And yet, today, for all of our "progress" we are as far from them as we've ever been. These deeply spiritual tools, most familiarly founded in the communities of ancient Jesus-followers, are so foreign to us today, particularly in the circles of religion, that we don't even recognize them at first glance.
My hope is to join an expanding conversation where everyday lives of every life speak hope and wholeness. One where we can fearlessly face the whole of we are and find ourselves embraced by the renovation of unbounded love. These are the words which I believe every life speaks. I hope you will join me in a revolutionary conversation.