2.27.23 5 Stages of the Spiritual Journey
2.27.23 The 5 Stages of the Spiritual Journey
I believe that there are five stages that we need to accomplish in order to love God with all of ourselves, and our neighbors as ourselves, as we follow Jesus Christ. We have in us a lot to heal and to transform, so that we can truly love God and all of our neighbors. These stages are echoed in the Exodus story of God calling the Israelites out of Egypt and leading them to the Promised Land, to Canaan. Here is how I would define these stages and how they relate to the Exodus story and the steps of the classical spiritual journey:
Stage 1: Believing in Jesus Christ. In the Exodus story, hearing God call the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.
The first stage is to believe in God, Father of us all and Creator of this earth, as well as the whole universe. We see the written word, the Bible, as the truth about God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We can stay in this first stage for the rest of our lives. Basically, all that has changed are our beliefs, our acknowledgement of God as our creator and Jesus Christ as His Son. We can continue to live as we have always lived, thinking the way we have always thought, and believing in God. To me, this does not make us a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Our prayers tend to be about what we want for ourselves and for other people. We revel in the blessings that we believe will come to us as we worship God.
Stage 2: Being born again. The Israelites follow Moses out of Egypt and trusting God enough to cross the Red Sea. 1st step of the classical spiritual journey: Awakening.
The second stage is when we answer God’s call to give our lives to Jesus Christ and promise in our deepest selves to follow Jesus Christ in all that we do. Essentially, we are putting ourselves in the hands of the Holy Spirit who will guide our lives, at first in smaller ways and then, through the later stages of our devotion to Jesus, we come to the ability to love as God loves and to live as God wants us to live. When I gave my life to Christ, the first thing that happened to me after three days of walking on air/in joy was that I came crashing down to earth with this thought: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me!” So, for three weeks, I was listing all the “gods” I put before God. That was the true beginning of my life in Christ. Now our prayers tend to be about lifting these “gods,” these issues up to God for healing, as well as praying for ourselves and others.
Stage 3: Healing/transformative work of God in us. The Israelites struggle through the wilderness with many of them “dying” in the wilderness. 2nd step of the classical spiritual journey: Purgation
Then, the third stage happens when we begin to trust God more and more and to actually hear His voice within us, that “still small voice of God” (1 Kings 19:12) and to follow what it suggests. He’ll often be highlighting issues within us that we need to acknowledge and to lift up to the Lord for healing. And He will heal them as we offer them up to Him. And so, we begin the healing and transformative work that the Lord will do within us. As we listen to His voice within us and the suggestions He offers us sometimes through other people recommending a book or program to us. As those suggestions have a resonance in us, we agree to follow the suggestions. Our prayers become more about sitting in His presence and learning to recognize His voice within us. We begin to sit in His presence, to learn how to be present to Him and to everyone we meet.
Stage 4: Living out our purpose/recognizing that God has called us to our purpose and our dedication to Him. Israelites are finally approaching the Jordan River after being assigned their purposes. Step 3 of the classical spiritual journey: Illumination.
And then there is the fourth stage when enough healing has happened in us that we are given suggestions about our purpose. So often our purpose directly relates to the challenges and suffering we have been through, so that when those issues are healed, it becomes obvious to us that we are to help other people who have suffered the same kinds of issues. For me, the difficulties I experienced in the hell-fire-and-damnation church in which I was raised—the doubt and fear that I experienced about myself—led me into spiritual direction training and practice and then writing about the journey in Christ for the benefit of others. AA sponsors are another example of people who have been redeemed from much suffering who are now helping others with the same issue. Or I have read about a mother who raised a disabled daughter who finally graduated from college in her mid-thirties; she is now helping other parents with disabled children. There is something so fulfilling about living in your purpose/giving back to others what you have learned. Our prayers begin to just be lifting others and ourselves up in prayer, not telling God what to do for them or for us. We spend more and more time in God’s presence and become more and more aware of His presence in everything we do. And we find ourselves filled with gratitude for all that God does for us, blessings and challenges, love and forgiveness, mercy and justice. And we can now see the lessons for us in each of these actions of God. And we are grateful for them and what they are teaching us about ourselves and our lives, whether they see them as positive or negative.
Stage 5: Unity with God/Living in the kingdom of God, free of the world and its influence over us. The Israelites cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. 4th step of the classical spiritual journey: Union.
At long last, there is the fifth stage of the spiritual journey when our desire for union with God becomes realized. And then, it is effortless for us to stay in His arms, doing His work, worshipping Him in all aspects of our lives. That union means that we no longer have to fear when we’re put on the spot, He speaks through us. Or in our writing, He is speaking His word within us. We have totally left the world, although we still are living in it, and with our total devotion to God, we are living in His purpose and in His kingdom. The fruit of the spirit which have been growing in us throughout the previous three stages now are obvious to us and to others. Here is the oneness that we have sought, the purpose that we are now living, the love for all other people that we were designed for. The agendas we follow are God’s for us, not our own wishes. We no longer are exerting our control over our lives, we are totally living out His wishes for us. When we speak, it is God’s voice that is directing our speech; as to what we do, God is directing our actions, too. We are seeing our minds and hearts and spirits and bodies coming together to love as God loves, to do what God asks us to do, to be who God designed us to be.
Questions to ponder over the week: In which stafe do I see myself on my spiritual journey? What is the main issue I am working on now—with God’s help? What do I need to do in order to complete this stage and be ready for the next one? How much love and forgiveness do I have for myself and others?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are allow God/Jesus Christ/Holy Spirit to lead us in expanding our commitment to God and in understanding this part of the journey and how to prepare for what is next. May we see the potential in us for continuously learning and incorporating what the Lord is teaching us now and again and again.
Check out my two websites: patsaidadams.com and deepeningyourfaith.com.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will email it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.
 Patricia Said Adams, Exodus: Our Story, Too! From Slavery to the World to the Kingdom of God, published in 2017.