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Jesus showed us ‘internal resurrection’

The Way of Spiritual Fortitude guest: ‘Internally liberated’ Jesus didn’t allow anyone to define him

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — “How good it is to center down! To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!”

With these words the Rev. Jeff Eddings opened  Wednesday’s The Way of Spiritual Fortitude, quoting a mediation from theologian and mystic the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman.

In the second of four online seminars put on my 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Eddings discussed Contemplative Spirituality with Therese Taylor Stinson, a spiritual director and founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network.

The Rev. Jeff Eddings

“Spiritual fortitude sounds like life is tough, like we’ve got to make our way through,” Taylor Stinson said. “But what happens in contemplation is that one becomes more aware of themselves at a deeper level — you get in touch, as Thurman would say, with ‘the genuine of yourself.’”

As an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Taylor Stinson shared insights from the Indigenous and Black contemplative experience to help participating church leaders better know themselves so that they might serve others.

Through contemplation, Taylor has learned to accept that not everything that happens is wonderful. But ultimately, it’s about what she’s supposed to learn about herself.

“We can think of it as deepening,” she said. “Not that nothing can ever shake you, but a lot of things that used to make you show how tough you are, through contemplation you’re able to receive the lesson that comes with it.”

In talking with Eddings, associate for coaching and spiritual formation for 1001 NWC, Taylor Stinson cautioned that contemplative silence may not be the place to start with everyone. Some people are born into certain things, she said, such as trauma that’s been passed down from generation to generation. Silence might bring it all back, to a point where the person can’t deal with it.

Therese Taylor Stinson

For Taylor Stinson, contemplation, which is a deepening in the life with God, should always lead to sacrificial action. Eddings believes this as well.  But he thinks that too often church leaders jump to the serving part while ignoring the benefits of a contemplative life.

“St. Ignatius has a prayer of wanting to know God more deeply, love God more intimately, and follow God more closely,” he said. “I’m finding out what I am to do out of that space of who I have been in Christ, who I am in Christ and who I am becoming in Christ.”

When the conversation turned to Jesus as a contemplative and what he models for us, Taylor Stinson spoke of her belief that Jesus showed us how to have “internal resurrection.”

“He had internal liberation,” she said. “Jesus didn’t allow anyone to define who he was. But unfortunately, we put him on a pedestal and made him a king and conqueror.”

‘Jesus believed and understood himself as an image bearer of God.’

But who Jesus was, was a Palestinian Jew. And to the people around him, she said, he wasn’t a high and mighty person with a kind heart wanting to help. Instead, he was one of them.

“The difference between them was that he was self-differentiated,” she said. “Jesus believed and understood himself as an image bearer of God.”

The author or editor of numerous books, Therese Taylor Stinson wrote “Embodied Spirits,” a book addressing the concerns and issues of people of color wih spiritual direction.

Scripture after scripture bears this message: “Jesus, as was his custom, got away.” Eddings has always thought of Jesus as a contemplative.  Taylor Stinson agreed, saying that Jesus was trying to get his disciples to be contemplative as well by recognizing that they too could have internal liberation — or, as Thurman put, “not being on the string that someone else pulls.”

For resources from Taylor Stinson on contemplative spirituality, click here. To hear more from her, check the 1001 ‘New Way” podcast with her.

At 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 3, Leeann Younger will be featured during the third installment of The Way of Spiritual Fortitude. Younger will speak on “Decolonizing Your Practice.” Register here.

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