D. It is written.
If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, you will know.
Some things we see or experience or know can connect us with something bigger than ourselves, something awesome and powerful and terrifying and hopeless – true desperation, poverty, horror – and yet something so hopeful the hairs on the back of my neck rise and make me want to shout out loud in a slightly embarrassing way “you see, there is more!!”.
Something, dare I say, spiritual.
When I see a film like Slumdog or The Constant Gardener or The Interpreter or many others that deal with the harsh realities of life I find they connect me with my spirituality – as if we can ever be “disconnected” – far more profoundly than a church service or a beautiful mountain scene or those horrendously cheesy posters with a big dog a small cat and a cheerful bible text.
Spirituality can so easily become entwined with sentimentality that it becomes nothing more than something about positive feelings. About me, my life, my well-being. In popular speak it refers to that un-identifiable something or other, usually accompanied by a “warm feeling”. A spiritual experience usually means a personal, inward looking one.
But that is not a spirituality that sits well with Jesus. Sentimentality like that is too easy, too shallow; it cannot engage with true pain, with poverty, with torture, with utter hopelessness and desperation, with mediocrity or the plain dull; it cannot engage with the cross, the resurrection, with Jesus as Lord. It fears and resists being linked with a god who self-empties, who gives of himself and does not clutch his divinity or majesty but instead is willingly sent to be and to know and to love and to be loved by his human creations.
It is, of course, a start. We must feel and we must express sentiment. But that is not where it ends. There is a greater, deeper, more profound and beautiful and challenging and uncomfortable aspect to us that if we remain disconnected from it, we cannot be fully who we are created to be.
We are called not to have a sentimentality, but to have a sent mentality. It does not have “i” in the middle. So we must see films like Slumdog, or find some way to engage with real pain – which is far more than knowing it exists and feeling sorry for it – because it is to the middle of that pain that our spirituality is sent. To be part of the hope, the change, the light. That is the hope. Always the hope.
Our spirituality therefore must be robust. If it is weak it cannot stand among the slumdogs or the millionaires. And it must be centred on Jesus, not on the “I” of me. If it centres on me, then it has nothing to offer or give except me, and no-one to be sent except me, and that is not enough because only Jesus is. True spirituality must be about being sent to the mess, not sentimental about it.