Human flourishing is not grounded in the careful analysis of actions whereby we maximize virtuous activity, but rather in a heart that has so conformed to the Divine presence that each action flows from it by a kind of spiritual instinct. Continuing with my sports metaphor, I will call this being in the spiritual zone. The natural greatness of professional athletes has many parallels with the greatness that we are called into Jesus Christ. In particular, the professional athlete’s experience of being in the zone has a marked similarity with our life in the Holy Spirit.
For example, when athletes are in the zone they respond to the different parts of the game by instinct. For such an experience to take place, they must rise to the challenge while losing their fear and self-consciousness. In addition, they must internalize the rules of their sport to such an extent that they have moved into the realm of physical genius. They are able to “see” the play, but in a way that is more intuitive and direct.
Through daily meditation and prayer, we develop the skills needed to get into the spiritual zone. As we face and conquer fears and anxieties, we become less ruled by self-consciousness and egocentricity. Through diligence and perseverance, we internalize both the natural law and the higher law of grace in Jesus Christ, and this frees us to live in the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. As we distance ourselves from attachments to self, we are more free to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit with boundless potential. In this way, we “see” God’s will by a means similar to the intuitive and direct vision of the great athlete.
In Eastern Christianity, they refer to this state of being as synergy. They explain that our activity, or energy, works in tandem with the energy of the Holy Spirit, creating a new reality based on cooperation and mutual penetration. Thus the goal of Christian morality is not an ethics based on analytical and speculative reasoning, but rather a transformation which opens the believer to a whole new horizon in Christ. Of course, there are some actions which will always remain intrinsically evil and off limits, but true flourishing is about so much more than a list of prohibitions.
Today, let us practice the art of inviting Christ into our lives. This is the discipline needed to become spiritual athletes who live in the zone. Inviting Christ into our lives at all times and in everything we do is the art of surrender which leads to synergy. Therefore, let us set our hearts on building our spiritual lives through regular prayer and meditation.