Ludwig van Beethoven once said, “Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the Divine.”
You may find it strange that when I saw that quote, I thought of the little dog I’m caring for this month. Like the beagle who stayed with us last year (see my blog--A Lesson from a Beagle) Joey, my new doggy friend, is also teaching me lessons.
Joey is a poodle-dachshund mix, and although his legs are short, the two of us love taking early morning walks together. Some days, Joey trots steadily along, forgoing all but the occasional sniff. Other days, he hardly covers any ground, pausing to sniff almost everything in sight.
So what do these morning walks with Joey have to do with Beethoven’s quote?
To me, they symbolize the two parts of spiritual growth—or feeling increasingly closer to the Divine—implied by Beethoven. First, practice the spiritual truths we already know. Second, demand our inspiration as we uncover new revelations about our spiritual nature as God’s image. (See Genesis chapter 1.)
Practicing the spiritual facts we’ve already learned is like the days when Joey and I trot steadily forward. The two of us are on familiar ground. Our steps are strong and confident. We can see our way is clear up ahead and we know where we’re going. We have this! There are no distractions. There is no need for us to stop moving forward.
Spiritually speaking, those are like the times when we hear God’s voice speaking loud and clear. On days like this, we usually hear His messages through a well-known Bible verse, or a familiar hymn. I don’t know how many nights I’ve awoken and thought of the 23rd Psalm. There’s such comfort in seeing myself as mentally at peace in Love’s cool, green pastures, or beside Spirit’s calm, still waters.
Mrs. Eddy’s hymn, Mother’s Evening Prayer, has also been my companion through thick and thin. The beginning line, “O Gentle Presence,” reminds me that God is always present to provide me with “peace and joy and power” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 389).
Your favorite spiritual inspiration is probably different than mine, but making practical the spiritual truths we already know is the first part of spiritual growth. Like a walking path with no obstacles, these loved ideas put us on sure footing.
The second part of feeling closer to God could be compared to the sniffing days of Joey’s walks. Those are the times when we need to stop and listen for new inspiration or direction. Sometimes Joey stops, stiffens his ears, and listens to a faraway bark, or a rumbling truck. There are times when he spends a lot of time putting his nose to the ground and discovering a newly-planted clump of flowers in a freshly-tilled flowerbed.
My walking companion’s willingness to stop and discover new information reminds me of a passage from the textbook of Christian Science: “Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 323).
Pausing, while we wait for God to show us our next spiritual discovery, helps us move confidently on our path of spiritual growth. Sometimes it isn’t quick or easy. But when we pause, really listen for God’s direction, then accept a new, more spiritual view of things, our steps become light, and we can feel ourselves making our way smoothly over rough terrain and taking unexpected turns with certainty.
Perhaps Beethoven wasn’t thinking of spiritual growth as an art. And I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t think of a little dog giving us lessons on raising ourselves to the Divine. But, spiritual growth is an art. Practicing what we know about God, and discovering fresh inspiration that helps us uncover more of our divine nature, puts us on a sure path of successfully feeling closer to God. That’s what I learned from Joey!
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!