Welcome to the 35th post in our Journey in Dialog. What might be the connection between transformational dialog and God?
I asked Spencer Christian, television personality, author of You Bet Your Life, and friend of many years, how he would describe our dialogical relationship. With his permission, here is his response.
“Yes, you and I have certainly experienced dialog–in both the spoken form, on the phone, and the written form, primarily through email. In both forms, I found our dialog meaningful–not only because of the words and ideas exchanged during the dialog, but also because of the probing ‘internal dialog’ that has naturally followed our conversations. I think a fair measure of the effectiveness of any dialog is what it produces in thoughts and deeds.
“My dialog with you has always encouraged me to more carefully examine my relationship with God, to question whether I am living purposefully.”
Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber said that dialog can surface glimpses of God.
I asked my friend and Christian theologian, Donald Dawe, what he saw to be the theology of dialog. He said that dialog is the means by which God’s Spirit opens us to truth. What a powerful affirmation. Have you ever felt in an experience of serious dialog that God was present, even guiding that experience?
Transformational dialog contributes to a sustainable relationship with God.
Empathetic dialog can lead to love, which includes mutual respect, caring, sharing, understanding, and uniting. When we listen to one another with patience, see in one another qualities that we admire, know that we can count on one another and even go the extra mile for one another, we are acting like God intended for us to act.
Communication becomes easier. We can be more open and trusting. Tough matters can be dealt with in a more caring way. We don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy in defense of challenging comments. We can take greater risks together because there is no fear of being betrayed.
Empathy energizes dialog. When that dialog becomes more than an exchange of words, it has the potential to be an exchange of meaning. When that level of dialog stimulates a new sense of identity and purpose as well as relationships that bond and stretch us, perhaps God’s Spirit is opening us to liberating Truth.
In his book The Meaning of Persons, Swiss physician Paul Tournier wrote, “Taking up an analogy which we have used before and which we can now complete, our life is a score composed by God. The person is the conductor who is assuring its performance by directing the orchestra – our body and mind. But the composer is not absent. He is there during the performance. He leans over to the conductor and encourages him; he whispers in his ear, making clear his intentions and helping him to put them into execution.”
Wikipedia describes Tournier’s God-Connection:
“His [earlier] Christian experience did not … become totally meaningful to him until a second experience, which he called a ‘face-to-face encounter with God.’
“This encounter transformed his life and changed everything, and gave him a vital interest in ‘that other side of life, for its inner dimension, so necessary to us.’ This encounter caused him to radically change his medical practice. Instead of merely treating the physical disorders of his patients, he started addressing the deeper problems of the whole person.”
When needed, Tournier made house calls and would sit with a patient in dialog to find ways to help him or her heal from the root causes of the illness.
Psychotherapist Carl Jung said the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. The illumination of mere being shines the light of love in the dark corners. Light is not the opposite of darkness; light displaces darkness.
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