Seeking an experience of the sacred

The signs are clear to any observer. People have become increasingly dissatisfied with what materialism claims to provide. There's a natural longing to discover meaning, to find a purpose and direction to life that go deeper than transient values and surface appearances. People want to connect with what is real, with what is substantial and lasting; they want to know their relationship to God, to experience something sacred.

Much has been written about all of this recently, and a book that was published earlier this year offers some interesting perspectives. The author, Phyllis A. Tickle, is the religion book editor at Publishers Weekly, and she is clearly knowledgeable about what is going on in the field of religious publishing today, noting that currently there are more than 2,500 books in print on such subjects as prayer, meditation, and spiritual growth. In Re-discovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America, Ms. Tickle contends that new age and its publications originally represented "the first loud cry of the abandoned and starving soul." Yet she also raises some honest questions directed at Americans' search for spiritual experience when she writes, for example, that "... much contemporary American spirituality is a recostumed and refurbished form of self-help that seeks more the well-being of its subject than any contemplation of the sacred" ([New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1995], pp. 104, 47).

Yet, is it wrong that people who want to find a deeper meaning for their lives may also want "well-being"—to be well? Perhaps there's some value in determining how those two goals might properly fit together in a mutually supportive way, and in a way that isn't directed at selfish ends. Actually, the answer for well-being, in the truest sense, is the very outcome of our search for, our experiencing, and our living of the sacred. The two go hand in hand. It's natural to seek well-being and to find it through nurturing our inherent spirituality and love for others. We can have lives that are purposeful and productive, that make a difference in the world and are also satisfying. We can discover a way of living that truly is of service to God and to our fellow men and women. This is at the heart of genuine Christian healing and of learning what is genuinely sacred in life.

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How can you pray about ethnic strife?
September 18, 1995

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