In Richard Rohr’s 2014 book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, the specifics of spirituality are examined through the life of St. Francis.
In his youth, St. Francis was lustful and materialistic—he desired popularity, alcohol, women, excitement, and power—which Rohr describes as a typical male approach to sexuality that is obviously out of balance. However, when his overindulgences didn’t result in happiness, St. Francis became disillusioned and eventually experienced a serious, near-death illness. Confronting the reality of death, he questioned his faith and beliefs. After deep self-reflection, he ultimately understood that:
“….the one way (to love God) was to hear God’s voice in everything—in the song of a bird, in the scream of the mad, in the despair of the leper, and embrace of the lovers—that was the way to love God!”
This realization brought St. Francis toward the essence of feminine energy: it exercised his ability to form mental images, pictures, and concepts of what is not actually present in the five senses, and he developed his interest in the soul, through deeper feelings states, intuition, harmony, beauty, and relationships with others. In so doing he gained a better understanding of his spirituality—the divine being seen and heard in everything. This also includes difficult feelings such as terror, sadness, anger and despair. Just as St. Francis welcomed these experiences, we too can allow emotions to be what they are and learn to embrace them with love.
This process is how we pass through the illusion of being “good” and experience and express the truth of our god-like selves. It took me a long time to accept and learn this lesson of emotional inclusion, because for so many decades of my life I sought to be “good”—I strove to overcome what I thought were “bad” feelings. It took a great deal of effort on my part to accept and love my emotions—all of them.
Have you had the experience of “hearing God’s voice in everything?” Is it when you are in nature, when you meditate, when you feel rage, disappointment, sadness, or even JOY? St. Francis would definitely view all of these as hearing God’s voice.
Consider what it would be like for one day each week to write down what you feel and to acknowledge that is your particular experience of hearing God’s voice. Atheists too, can engage in this spiritual practice by exploring your true feelings to shift perspective on your emotional life and pave the way to accepting instead of judging. All comments, as always, are welcome!