Metaphors are not just for those of a literary inclination. We all employ metaphors in our speech, but more importantly, we all use those same metaphors to structure our perception and organize our understanding. Our personal metaphors both reflect and shape our experience of ourselves, others and the world. For this reason I would suggest that metaphors form a deep part of our spirituality.
Take, for example, the life-as-journey metaphor. Although this has become quite popular in spiritual discourse, it is far from the only available metaphor for life. For some people, life feels much more like a crap shoot, while for others the metaphor that suggests itself may be a battle, a prison, a garden, a roller-coaster, a river, or a mission. I am aware that my own fondness for the life-as-journey metaphor reflects a good deal of my own spirituality. It accommodates my restlessness and interminable seeking and reflects my tendency to view things in dynamic rather than static terms. More importantly, it fits well with my emphasis on becoming, as well as the closely related theme of transformation. These things made it hard for me to settle into any Christian identity that was based on having arrived or possessing the truth. Being a Christian has been very important to me for most of my life but it has always meant being a seeker, not simply a finder. My identity as a Christian has always had more to do with becoming than simply being. And what I have always wanted to become has been fully alive and deeply human.
But, you might ask, what kind of a journey is this life journey? First and foremost, I would suggest that it is a journey of becoming. In Christian terms we might speak of this as becoming our true self in God, becoming like Christ, or possibly becoming our hidden self-in-Christ. In other spiritual traditions it has sometimes been presented in terms of becoming enlightened or becoming one with all that is, while in more psychological language it might be framed as becoming increasingly integrated, becoming free, or becoming all we can be. Becoming is an important meeting point of psychology and spirituality. It is an essential characteristic of anything deserving to be called spirituality and is certainly right at the very core of Christian spirituality.
Another important way in which we can characterize the human journey is to describe its goal as becoming fully human. Perhaps you have assumed that we are born fully human, or, if not, that this is something that simply requires passage of time. But neither of these is true. The fulfillment of our humanity never happens automatically. Nor does it ever occur apart from certain core spiritual ways of living. However, not all spiritual paths – nor even all expressions of Christian spirituality – lead us in this direction. Even though spirituality has an indispensable role to play in this human developmental journey, it is important to realize that our spirituality can actually make us less, not more, authentically human.
Soulful spirituality is not a spiritual path but a spiritual way of walking the human path. It is a spiritual way of living that supports the journey of becoming deeply and authentically human. It is seen most clearly in Jesus but is available to all who seek to become fully human, regardless of whether they think of themselves as a Christian or even as spiritual.