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Simple Spirituality

Simple Spirituality

Author and Director of Word Made Flesh Chris Heuertz has spent years working among the poorest of the world’s poor, including children with AIDS, women forced into prostitution and recovering drug addicts. His experiences have shown him the transforming power of being a Christ follower in a broken world, something he brings to life in his new book, Simple Spirituality.

Simple Spirituality talks about living a life of simplicity, humility, community, submission and brokenness, though most Christians don’t. How can they overcome that?

We know God’s heart suffers throughout the globe. I think what we lack is the courage to enter into that suffering. What we lack sometimes is the courage to find ourselves tucked into the suffering of God as a means of solidarity and identification but also as a possible hopefulness of being part of the solution to that suffering.

We’ve rewritten things about simplicity and we’ve rewritten things about brokenness. We’ve rewritten things about submission and, in 2008, there’s an emerging sense of entitlement;it seems that there’s this prolonged adolescence into adulthood. I think in 2008, when a lot of us are paralyzed in prisons of having so much opportunity, we’ve not known what to do with this kind of spirituality.

There’s a new challenge for young Christians to recover some of those values that are hiding throughout Christian tradition and reclaim and recover those that are in the real sphere of solidarity and suffering with God, who still suffers today in a world that is marked by poverty and oppression.

I think one of the things we would do well to consider is being students of our own culture, looking at how society has shaped us and looking at how the kind of values I mentioned in [Simple Spirituality] are translated through the reality we live in in 2008. I would then suggest that we could reimagine those through what the cultural dynamics of the Kingdom of God might be. It teaches the foolishness of our weaknesses are places for God to reveal wholeness. I think it is a cultural collision between empires of this world and the Kingdom of God. And, I think we need to live in the tension of translating what the cultures of the Kingdom of God looks like in 2008.

Where do you see Word Made Flesh headed in the future?

That’s a great question. We’re having a lot of conversations in our community about equality. I think with a community like ours, which works really among the most formidable of the world’s poor, there are the tensions of power—dynamics in relationships that I think need to find a real biblical sense of restoration. We’re also starting to have these conversations, I think, a little more thoughtfully and thoroughly between those who are rich and those who are poor.

I think conversations are sort of leveling the playing field of community. We’re also exploring more of a theological commitment to partnership and mission and what the implications of that look like. But as we look to the future, we continue to want to keep it simple and focused, relationship and grassroots. We want to continue to marry a very strong contemplative basis to our activism, and we want to make sure we don’t get far away from letting our starting place be devotional—that first and foremost we do this unto God, letting the missional component of it be secondary.

Below is an excerpt from Simple Spirituality.

Once I was in the checkout line at a grocery store in California, the day before leading a retreat for a college group. A headline on one of the tabloids in the checkout aisle caught my attention. I swear it read, “Goliath Was Shot with a .38!”

Now, I was a theology major in college with an ancient biblical languages minor, and I don’t remember anything in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning handguns. I was intrigued. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I bought that tabloid and read the article—twice.

Apparently, some archeologist examined Goliath’s skull (who knew they found his skull?) and determined that he was shot in the head with a gun—maybe even a semi-automatic rifle. The theory is based on what appears to be an exit wound in the back of the skull. There are even some experts who believe that it was a drive-by shooting: David was in a moving chariot when he fired the weapon. The article concludes with a hint of ancient conspiracy theory, that maybe there was a second shooter.

I didn’t take the article seriously, but it threw me off just enough to look at the David and Goliath story a little bit differently. Goliath was standing in the way of God’s people moving into the Promised Land. No one was brave enough to fight him. In a serendipitous twist of events, David showed up and volunteered to take him on. We are told that David took five stone from the Brook of Elah and placed one in a slingshot to slay the giant (1 Samuel 17:49).

It’s funny that David took five stones when the story indicates that he only used one of them. Was David that bad of a shot? Was there a mountain lion or something else harassing his flock that he was getting a few extra stones for? Had one of his older brothers played a prank on him, and did David need a stone or two to pop his brother’s knee cap in revenge? Assuming all the little details of the Bible are infused with some meaning, why five stones?

Over the years, I’ve read different biblical scholars’ interpretations of the symbolism in the details. For instance, some believe that the five stones represented the pentapolis, or the five cities of Canaan (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza) that David would ultimately conquer. On the other hand, rabbinic tradition speculates that Goliath had four other brothers who were also giants that David would need to fight as they sough vengeance for their slain brother, and the stones were reserved for each of them.

Years ago I lived in Jerusalem to study archaeology and Hebrew. On one of the many field trips, I found myself standing on the dry banks of the same stream that David once stood upon. At that place, I bent down and collected five small, smooth stone and slipped them into my backpack. When I returned from Israel, I put them in my dresser and forgot about them. Years later, as I was reflecting on my struggles to cultivate my spirituality, I took those stones out of my dresser, set them on my desk, and asked God what giants in my life were blocking my view of what God had in mind for me. I began to name them:

Pride and arrogance
Individualism and independence
Intemperance and excess
Power and control
Triumphalism, defiance and resistance

I asked God to help me fight my giants. God gave me small stones of hope and promise, simple yet profound:

Humility to slay the giant of pride and arrogance.
Community to slay the giant of individualism and independence.
Simplicity to slay the giant of intemperance and excess.
Submission to slay the giant of power and control.
Brokenness to slay the giant of triumphalism, defiance and resistance.

These five simple stones are central among the nine core values of Word Made Flesh. We call them our Lifestyle Celebrations. As I pray for the grace to live into a spirituality that embodies these simple commitments, I invite you to join me.

Writing on spirituality is a daunting endeavor. It seems to imply a sense of accomplishment. Well, I have a confession to make: I’ve hardly arrived anywhere. I’m much more a fanatic or activist than I am a contemplative or mystic. My spirituality has been expressed much more in my relationships, active life and cerebral ponderings than in sacred, tranquil spaces of the heart and soul. Hopefully I’m stumbling forward in it all, but spirituality is a language that I’m still learning to speak. I’ve not yet mastered it. Far from it. Its nuances and rhythms are still a mystery to me. These pages are a confession of that—more questions than answers.

As you read this book, I hope your eyes will be opened to the truth that the spirituality God wishes for us is really quite simple: that against humility, community, simplicity, submission and even brokenness no giant can stand, but only God who delivers us from them into the promises found in Scripture.

Taken from Simple Spirituality by Christopher L. Heuertz. ©2008 by Christopher L. Heuertz. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.

Check out Simple Spirituality here.

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