Immaturity is the prerequisite for maturity, whether it be simply growing in our physical bodies or our mental abilities, we are all naturally moving from a place of immaturity to maturity. As adults, we are able to recognise immaturity in our kids as we watch them grow and – if we are healthy adults – we never despise them for their immaturity, we never judge them for their innocence, because we understand that the only way to mature is to grow up over time. This same principle can be applied to our spiritual journeys and the process of learning how to walk again with God in His garden state – all of us begin by crawling.
Let me develop what is “crawling” in the spiritual realm. St. Paul said that the law was given to keep us from harm. Paul goes on to say that with the Spirit, the law that was intended to keep us from harm, no longer governs us but the Spirit now has dominion over us. This principle, I think, clearly explains the difference between crawling and walking. When a child is young, they need strong, firm boundaries to keep them safe. Spiritually it would mean it’s okay to begin with rules, a lot of dos and don’ts, because we have to learn how to live inside boundaries until we don’t need them anymore – and the time when we don’t need the rules anymore is when instead of keeping us from harm, the rules begin to hurt both ourselves and others.
Here I would like to introduce the idea that the voice that teaches us to follow the rules as Christians is not the voice of God; rather, it is the voice that Richard Rohr calls “the loyal soldier”. The loyal soldier is our ego construction that develops with the very best of intentions when we are taught religious tenets and laws as opposed to the law of love. The loyal soldier is in most people’s lives the voice of shame, guilt and condemnation, yelling quite loudly when we break the rules and, simply because of the sheer volume of this voice, we mistakenly associate with God’s voice. The problem is it is not the voice of God. It is an ego construct mimicking what we would assume would be the voice of God because we have only ever experienced religious rules rather than the Spirit of faith.
Many people get stuck in this phase of their spiritual development. What learning to walk is all about is simply love that creates life! Obviously metaphors break down, but spiritually speaking, until we learn to walk, which is always measured in Jesus’ words by love, we are crawling. It’s as simple as that, we are stuck on our bellies. If you know that this is true for you today, you are not walking – you’re crawling – that’s okay.
Here is a great question to ask yourself if you want to know if you are stuck on your belly: Are you alive, or are you just living? If you are just living, that’s okay, but let the longing to be alive well up inside of you. No one thinks they can do it when they are learning to walk. Children don’t think they can do it. In fact, children know they can’t walk, but they keep trying anyway.
If you are wondering what walking would look like spiritually, go with Jesus’ definition. The only measure of spiritual life is love. Loving God, yourself and others is walking. Jesus said in Mark 12 and Matthew 22, “…this is all the law and all the prophets”, meaning – that’s it! That’s the whole deal. Love. It’s healthy and necessary to start from the place of immaturity, which Jesus called “the law” and to move to a place of spiritual maturity, which Jesus called “love”. This is the journey of learning to walk.
So do you want to walk?