by Mike Hands
“If you are searching,
You must not stop until you find.
When you find, however,
You will become troubled.
Your confusion will give way to wonder.
In wonder you will reign over all things.
Your sovereignty will be your rest.”
Finding a spiritual teacher or mentor is a lot like falling in love. Often from the first encounter with such a person we just knew there was the possibility for a powerful and magical connection with them. Their words and very presence somehow were able to awaken our hearts to parts of ourselves that had been closed to us for far too long, or perhaps ever. It is a shame when time and familiarity keep us from reconnecting to the power and positive influence our spiritual teachers had on us when we first encountered them.
When I read the words quoted above. my mind and heart resonate with a deep “yes”. I’ve known what it means to be a seeker for truth and to find what I was looking for only to be troubled by what was found. And yes, to sit in such a revelation and contemplate the fullness of what has been revealed can indeed lead to new insights and genuine wonder. And this wonder opens the doorway to profound transformation and growth, if I have the courage to walk through it. Reading them, I feel immediately that whoever spoke these words gets it. In reading these words I feel an affinity with the wisdom of the teacher who spoke them. The words perplex me and inspire me and somehow challenge me – all at the same time. Truly, they must have been spoken by an authentic spiritual master. And yes, I’d like to hear more of what this wise teacher has to say about life, spiritual growth, and the art of being a fully alive human being. Learning about and exploring these topics is a huge part of what my life is about.
Where did these words come from? Who spoke them and in what context? The quoted words above are from the Gospel of Thomas, recovered in 1945 amid the Nag Hammadi scrolls in the Egyptian desert and now largely accepted as an authentic teaching of Jesus. A collection of teachings or sayings of Jesus recorded before any of the four traditional Gospels where written down, the Gospel of Thomas gives us a window into the core teachings of the Wisdom Jesus, who opened minds and hearts of the disciples who heeded his invitation to “follow me”.
Unfortunately, many of the teachings and sayings of Jesus that we are familiar with have been filtered through the historical and cultural lenses of two thousand years of interpretations. The result is that the teachings, known collectively as Christianity, have in many ways become quite pasteurized. I fear I am not always able to hear the radical and transformative edge of what the spiritual master known as Jesus of Nazareth had to say because a lot may have been lost in the translation over the millennia.
What I love about exploring the Gospel of Thomas, and other ancient yet recently uncovered texts, is how they make the wisdom of Jesus new again for me. I hear them without already knowing what the point is. They are fresh and I can more readily allow them to affect me. I can sit with them and hear them literally for the first time.
If you have a spiritual connection with Jesus in some way, yet have lost some of the heart connection you feel regarding his teachings and the path of life he opened up for those who follow him, perhaps exploring these recently uncovered teachings can open up a new chapter in how you relate to the person and teachings of Jesus.
I’ll be presenting on the Gospel of Thomas, and the traditions of other ancient Christian communities whose teachings and insights had been lost to us for centuries, at this year’s Advent retreat. Watching For The Light (December 9-11, 2016). Together with John Stasio and the other presenters for this retreat, I invite you to come with a heart and mind open to meeting the wisdom and teachings of Jesus in a new way. This retreat is for LGBT people who identify as Christians, whether or not this faith dimension is currently that active for them. It is also for LGBT spiritually minded individuals who may have never identified with being Christian, yet are open to learning more about spirituality and personal growth inspired from the teachings of Jesus and the many Christian traditions. Who knows, you may come away feeling you’ve connected to Jesus as for the very first time.