My dear friend, Dr. Gerald May, made a distinction years ago that I have found myself using frequently. He says spirituality is not to encourage willfulness, but in fact willingness. Spirituality creates willing people who let go of their need to be first, to be right, to be saved, to be superior, and to define themselves as better than other people. That game is over and gone and if you haven’t come to the willing level—“not my will but thy will be done”—then I think the Bible will almost always be misused.
I would like to say that the goal in general is to be serious about the word of God, serious about the scriptures. We have often substituted being literal with being serious and they are not the same! (Read that a second time, please.) I would like to make the point that in fact literalism is to not take the text seriously at all! Pure literalism in fact avoids the real impact, the real message. Literalism is the lowest and least level of meaning in a spiritual text.
Both Origen and Augustine in the third and fourth centuries said there were at least four levels of interpretation to every scripture text. Recent fundamentalism, which says that literalism is in fact the truest meaning of the text, is totally inaccurate—and very late in coming. Literalism is the lowest level of meaning and if you just stop there you will never come to any real Encounter. You have engaged your own critical and self-protective mind, instead of bringing your mind into union with your heart. It will not get you very far. It will make you willful but not willing, and that makes all the difference.
A Teaching on Wondrous Encounters
My image of God creates me.