In recent weeks we have written about “oneness with God’ in the articles: What Is Oneness With God?, What Does The Bible Say About Oneness?, and a Guided Meditation On Oneness With God. In this article we share how the journey toward oneness with God can be viewed as one of the stages of spiritual growth.
Stages Of Spiritual Growth
Scripture clearly infers there are multiple stages and paths towards spiritual growth, particularly in the Gospels. Google “stages of spiritual growth” and you will see that much has been written on the subject by religious writers and researchers from various faith traditions. I have seen presented as few as four and as many as nine distinct stages, using different terms and definitions to describe each stage.
My purpose here is not to interpret what scripture says about spiritual growth and maturity, or to represent what others have discovered and said about the subject. I simply want to share how and where “oneness with God” fits into my own spiritual journey. The terms I use, though drawn from various sources, reflect my own understanding of what I have experienced. It may or may not be similar to yours or anyone else’s, and I’m not saying that it should be. Though we may learn from each other and share similar experiences along the way, I believe everyone’s spiritual journey has a unique path and is a personalized expression of God’s activity in their lives.
My Journey Towards Oneness With God
Thus far, I can delineate four different stages in my own personal spiritual journey. Though each stage has had distinct characteristics, the lines between the stages was often blurred and frequently overlapped. I present them in linear fashion but in fact from time to time I regressed to earlier stages of development. And, though there was a clear progression, it was not unusual for me to be in all four stages simultaneously. The process has been complex, difficult to describe, and extended over 60 plus years. Here is my attempt at a brief and simplified summation of each stage I have experienced.
- Knowing about God: In this stage I found myself hungry for Bible knowledge. I loved reading Bible stories, singing hymns, and memorizing scripture. I learned about doctrine and the foundational beliefs of my denomination. My motivation for putting my faith into action was to share what I was learning and to be obedient to the Word of God.
- Knowing God: In this stage I came to understand my spiritual walk as a relationship with God, His Son, Jesus, and a community of fellow believers. I began to see God as Father and Jesus as Friend. Fellowship and community with other believers became a priority. My service to God was motivated by a desire to share with others the same love relationship that I enjoyed, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
- Moving to an inner experience: The first two stages of my spiritual growth were more outside-in. God was external, someone up there reaching down to me and me reaching up to Him. My spiritual growth was dependent upon others pouring into me their own spiritual experiences and knowledge. My third stage of spiritual growth felt more inside-out. I began to internalize God’s Word and recognize the movements of the Holy Spirit within me. I became less dependent upon what others preached, taught, and experienced. Jesus’ words and actions became my hermeneutic rather than the teachings and experiences of others. The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes took on more significance and meaning than did the Ten Commandments. I became more transformation than salvation oriented. I began to accept responsibility for my own soul care…..for my own spiritual growth, my own scriptural understandings, and my own spiritual experiences. I became more comfortable with the unknown and unknowable mysteries of God, more contemplative, and more Holy Spirit taught and led. My missional engagement became more Holy Spirit revealed, and was often inspired by my God given calling, giftedness, and passions.
- Experiencing oneness with God, others, and creation. Here I became aware and began to fully embrace the reality that I was made in God’s image. Just as importantly, I came to see that so were others as well as all of God’s creation. God was no longer someone other than me but someone whose very attributes were infused in me from the dawn of creation. God’s presence became perpetual. All of life and creation became spiritual. My love and appreciation for nature intensified. I began to see God infused in all things, at all times, and in all people. Jesus’ inclusive, non-violent, and non-judgmental stance became higher values. Prayers became more spontaneous, and at times even wordless. Service to the world and to humanity became a more natural and spontaneous desire, emanating from my understanding of oneness with the Eternal Godhead, others, and creation.
Where am I now? I feel as if I am an infant in stage four, and I am clueless where it goes from here. Though using the term spiritual journey implies a destination, I sense there are other paths yet to follow and maybe even additional stages left to discover. At the very least, much more remains to be learned and experienced about each of these stages of spiritual growth.
Posted on September 17, 2019