There are as many paths to God as there are individuals. This series on Huffington Post looks at six of the most well-traveled paths for contemporary believers. Today we look at this "path of exploration."
A few years ago, I worked with an Off-Broadway acting company that was producing on a new play about the relationship between Jesus and Judas. After some meetings with the actor who would play Judas, the playwright and the director, I was invited to help the cast better understand the subject material. In time they asked me to serve as "theological consultant" for the play. This isn't as strange as it may seem: the Jesuits have historically been active in theater, having used it extensively in their schools from the earliest days.
Over the course of six months, I found myself talking with the actors not simply about Jesus and Judas, but also about their spiritual lives, questions prompted by our freewheeling discussions about the Gospels, about sin and forgiveness, and about faith.
Several of the actors had toggled between one religious tradition and another, seeking something that would "fit." One actor, named Yetta, who played Mary Magdalene, told me that her mother was Catholic and her father was Jewish. They decided to let her choose her own religion when she was grown. "But," she said, "I haven't chosen yet." (By the way, when I quote people in this book, or tell their stories, it is with their permission.)
My time with the actors was not only one of discovering the theater but also meeting people who were traveling along a path I hadn't seen before. They were on the path of exploration.
Given their profession this was not surprising. Good actors often research a new role by spending time with a person from that background. An actor prepping for a role in a police drama, for instance, will hang out with real-life police officers. So the idea of "exploration" comes naturally to them. Stepping into another person's shoes for a time is not that different from entering into another religious tradition for a time.
Others -- not just actors -- more settled in their religious beliefs often find that their own spiritual practices are enhanced through interactions with other religious traditions. Several years ago I was astonished by the richness of my prayer one Sunday morning in a Quaker meeting house near my parent's home in Philadelphia. While I had ample experience praying contemplatively on my own, and worshiping together during Catholic Masses, the Quakers' "gathered silence" (praying silently together) was a type of contemplation I'd never before imagined. Their tradition had enriched my own.
As Anthony de Mello, the great Indian Jesuit spiritual master said: "I have wandered freely in mystical traditions that are not religious and have been profoundly influenced by them. It is to my Church, however, that I keep returning, for she is my spiritual home..."