By Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson
Discovery: Staking My Claim
“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” —Simone Weil
Last week, we completed part 4 of our spiritual journey through art. We have now taken survey of the landscape of our spiritual journeys, mapped where we’ve come from and where we’re going, taken inventory of what’s in our spiritual luggage, and contemplated who our traveling companions are. In case you missed them, here are links to the intro, the intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. This week, we stake claim to our spiritual territory.
God to Abraham: “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
In this week’s exercise, spiritual territory is metaphor for spiritual gifts or spiritual stewardship or spiritual wisdom. What do you recognize as your sphere of spiritual influence, and thus, your sphere of responsibility? Where do your gifts of wisdom lie? What is the spiritual territory that has been entrusted to you?
Consider several aspects of spiritual territory:
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each for the profit of all. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the workings of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He will. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-12)
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time—just one, one, one. So you begin. I began—I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand…. The same goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin—one, one, one.” —Mother Theresa
“Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.” —Dalai Lama
“You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery, from The Little Prince”
“I try to live what I consider a ‘poetic existence.’ That means I take responsibility for the air I breathe and the space I take up. I try to be immediate, to be totally present for all my work.” —Maya Angelou
“Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” —Jonas Salk
Spiritual territory may be literal physical territory—your home and the lives you nurture within its walls, or your local community, or your church. Or it may be symbolic: perhaps your spiritual territory is the teaching of young children or social activism or theological scholarship. Whatever the case, responsibility begins with recognition—recognition that “The earth is the Lord’s in all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 21 1-2), and recognition of our role of stewardship.
1. Consider the symbols of land and geology and their significance to the spiritual journey. What is the spiritual territory you claim? What territory has been placed in your responsibility? What does this spiritual land look like? Is it fertile? Arid? Mountainous? Next to a river? On an island? What does these geographical metaphors represent to you?
2. Make a drawing that represents the spiritual land to which you are laying claim.
Here’s my drawing (left-handed once again), which is split it into four smaller pieces (click for full image):
On a small scale, a flat arid stretch represents what I consider to be the spiritual territory placed in my responsibility. People who are crossing parched land in their spiritual journeys often come into my life. The climbing of treacherous snow-capped mountains, I leave to the erudite. The drowning waters, I leave to those who know how to save. The lush meadows are strangely foreign to me. The crossing of parched land, however, I understand. And I know that it calls for the simple gift of water, which I think of as a metaphor of compassion and nurturing. I’m still learning to give this gift, but it is one I’ve received, and it seems only natural that I should pass it on.
On a cross section, I feel I am always drilling down toward the spiritual-universal level of my spiritual territory, on a level deeper and darker than what is visible on the surface. I feel my heart pulling me toward that cross section of earth, as though that’s closest to the source of water that will nourish arid ground.
Switching perspective a bit, a geographical map of my spiritual territory includes the island of Adventism connected to the mainland of the world, or humanity. I’ve always felt my responsibility was to the world at large more than to the island of Adventism. I wish Adventism didn’t feel like an island and that I didn’t have to straddle the bridge that connects the two.
Finally, my spiritual territory wouldn’t be complete without this quote from J.R.R. Tolkien: “We come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal light that is with God.” It was with physical light that God opened the curtains on our literal earth and with metaphorical light that, as a writer, I explore my literary world.
What I gained through this exercise was an awareness of where I stand, and consequently, a sense of possibilities growing out of the spiritual territory that has been entrusted to me. “My foot stands in an even place,” David said, and I feel much the same (Psalm 26: 12).
Have you made any discoveries through this exploration of spiritual territory? Leave a comment and let me know. As always, if you’re brave enough to share your creations with the world, scan them in and email them to me (signed or anonymously) at firstname.lastname@example.org along with a brief description of your artwork. I’ll see about putting them up on the blog.