I flew to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico on Monday of last week. I was picked up and stashed in a nice hotel for the night, and the next morning 11 others gathered at a convent/retreat-center near the lake of Chapala, just south and west of the city. We spent three days talking about and practicing Christian spirituality. Well, “practicing” is hardly the word, except for the last day when we engaged specifically in several spiritual practices, but one of the themes of the retreat was an exploration of the nature of spirituality in general and Christian spirituality in particular. Of course, 12 contact-hours wasn’t good for more than a skim across the surface. The paradox of the simplicity and complexity of the human spirit is the subject of un-numbered doctoral dissertations—mine own being one infinitesimal contribution to the ongoing world-wide conversation. Spirituality is so foundational to the great human experiment that we are usually unaware of it, even though without it we cannot be human. It tends to surface surreptitiously and surprise us with our own behavior.
For instance, we spent one afternoon visiting a public park on the shores of the lake. At the end of a pier that extends out over the water is a small gazebo, railed in with wrought iron scroll-work. All over the metal bars are locks, placed there by lovers who swear their unending commitment to one another with this symbol of security and stability. I suppose they throw the key into the water or something. The city comes along regularly and cuts them all off, but lovers quickly restock the available spaces. True love springs from those depths of our being that are spiritual. The heart of all spirituality is ultimately love, and at its most profoundly human, self-giving, self-sacrificing love.