Guitierrez on the split of spiritual exprience

I have been picking my way through Gustavo Gutierrez’s We Drink from our own Wells.  While much of the exegesis offered there feels like well-worn territory now I was struck by his description of spiritual growth in response to God’s call to the poor.

The harsh reality of everyday experience causes breaks with the past and launches persons on new quests.

1. To the measure that solidarity with the world of the poor grows and matures, old securities collapse and fixed reference points crumble away – underpinnings that used to provide a certain tranquility in the midst of  new experiences and challenges.  A growing insecurity seems to undermine, from within, the patterns of spiritual life that guided our earlier steps.  Many continued in their original commitment for a long time, relying on the solid protection of their religious community, a Christian environment, and a particular way of understanding life according to the gospel.  The shock of reality, and the effort to enter into it to an ever fuller degree, darkened what was once a clear horizon.  Familiar paths now lead to impasses.  Those who, nonetheless, refuse to be discouraged seek more fruitful paths, but the price they pay is dissatisfaction, fear, and sometimes even frustration.  And in every case there is a keen sense of insecurity that is perhaps inevitable but that also must pass because it is not possible to build a solid and lasting spirituality on a sense of insecurity.

2. The result is a painful split in spiritual experience.  Persons begin to live in a somewhat dichotomized fashion.  On the one hand, they feel the need of a sure spiritual way; this is especially the case perhaps in those who have had a more systematic formation in this area.  On the other hand, daily life with its demands for commitment seems to run on a tangential track; it does not initially conflict with the spirituality one has acquired, but neither does it enrich it.  In the long run, this kind of dual existence is highly unsatisfactory.  Upon the disappearance of the fixed points that should give unity to everyday activity, persons live at the mercy of events, unable to establish fruitful links between them and are forced simply to jump from one to another.  They are convinced that they have learned a great deal from solidarity with the poor and from carrying out their work of evangelization among them, but when they try to express this perception they fall back on categories that begin to seem increasingly alien and remote.  The problem results from the fact that they have not reexamined these categories in the light of their new experiences or, more exactly, that they do not have another path that can replace the one that no longer seems to lead to the goal. (16-17)


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