It’s been so great to hear AJ and Kathy and Steve say how much they appreciate Volf and love his spirit and his mind. I’m being reminded again how influential he’s been on my life, how much my classes with him, how chatting over coffee after class, how his books have shaped me.
I think I’ve blogged before about my internal schizophrenia. Part of me absolutely loves what I do, being a pastor and getting the opportunity to walk with people through the hardest and best things in their lives. But part of me loves (and misses and wishes for) academia and theology and intellectual curiosity. That part of me has just loved being here in this environment again!
Volf said this great thing, either last night or today: “If you are at all intellectually curious, you ought to be in theology. Because God created everything, we get to study absolutely everything!” It’s so obvious that he isn’t schizophrenic at all; his is an unbelievably sharp mind that rigorously and vigorously pursues God and truth. And I love that he was honest about the struggles that causes for him, too.
One question today went like this: “You said spirituality is a particular way of life before God, and that serves as the root of theology. If thatâ€™s true, does a theologian need not just theological skills, but practical spirituality skills? And what are they? How does it work?”
Again, I loved his answer. He said people always seem to ask him for more hands on stuff, and his basic response is, â€œIâ€™m not good at that. Iâ€™m spiritually undisciplined.â€ He knows what works for him… as he is biking, he uses his Treo to listen to someone reading the bible out loud. It’s a simple way for him to pray, to encounter God. Then he made us all laugh: â€œI tried having a spiritual director. It didnâ€™t work; I was undirectable! I thought too much, I was told.” He went on. “I think too much. The intellectual, obsessive questions I have are intertwined with spirituality. It is my spirituality.â€
We’re all different, created differently by God with our own interests and ways of life. God can be found in all of that variety. Isn’t that what Quakers have always believed? That God is present in us all? That all of life is sacramental? That within each person is the light and seed of God? So the intellectually curious can find God in their thinking. It is their spirituality. The doers among us can find God in their doing. It is their spirituality. We can find the ways in which God best connects with us and who we are made to be. And that’s beautiful!
More beautiful still is the realization that God really does speak through anything and everything. Volf, the thinker, also could say this: “The great spiritual disciplines are kids and a wife, right? They make us live what we say we believe, and they call us on the carpet if we fail to do what we said we would.” We can find the ways God best connects with us and enjoy it, and we can trust that God will also be using anything and everything to get through to us, if we’re willing to take the time to listen.