Building a Transformative Friendship with Jesus

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One of the finest presentations on Integral Christianity you will ever see. Recorded during the 2015 Return to the Heart of Christ Consciousness event, this was far and away one of the most talked-about highlights from the entire conference. Watch as Paul Smith takes us beneath the crust of evangelical extremism and beyond the noise of outdated belief systems into the very heart of Christ Consciousness itself.

Topics include:

  • The History of Christianity in 10 Seconds: Paul outlines the history of the Christian tradition, from its ancient roots to today’s institutions.
  • The Three Faces of Spirit: Paul talks about how Ken Wilber’s Three Faces of Spirit (“The greatest breakthrough in understanding and accessing God for Christians since the Trinity was formulated in the fourth century”) can completely transform your faith, inside and out.
  • The Expanded Trinity: Paul takes us on a guided tour through the Christian Trinity as seen through the lens of the Three Faces of God, resulting in one of the most complete (and one of the most electrifying) accounts of the Trinity we’ve ever seen.
  • Jesus’s Three State Practices: Paul identifies the three primary forms of spiritual practice that Jesus engaged in, and how these very same practices can illuminate and revitalize your own spiritual life.
  • The Truth about Prayer: When we pray, are we simply performing a form of gestalt therapy, or perhaps playing a game of “Words with Imaginary Friends”? Or is there really someone there on the other end of our prayers?
  • Sitting with Jesus: Paul leads us on an exceptionally powerful practice of contemplative prayer. This practice has the potential to change your entire life, and for some of you, it might even elicit the first authentic Christian spiritual experience you’ve ever had!

My Personal Introduction to Jesus Christ

by Corey W. deVos

Although I was raised with a Christian background, I have never personally had a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ. That is, until I experienced Paul’s presentation. I want to share some of my reflections with you, as this particular presentation touched me very deeply.

Some of you may already know that my family has been struggling with some medical challenges over the last couple years. I’ve written about it a few times on this site, so I won’t go into a lot of detail. But briefly, my daughter was born with a chronic liver disease, and received a liver transplant last year when she was just a year and a half old. Her transplant was a success, thank God, and we have been walking a mostly positive, if occasionally bumpy, path toward recovery ever since.

We have received an incredible amount of love and support from our friends, our family, and from many of you in the integral community. But still, this has been an exhausting journey for both my fiancée and myself. It’s a lot to hold, and often too much to wrap my heart around.

Even as immersed in integral practices and perspectives as I am, these trials nonetheless completely knocked me off my cushion, and left my interiors feeling tattered and twisted. Containing these experiences has required more strength and presence than I ever thought possible. Usually I am able to rise to the occasion, other times I fail. When I fail, I tend to isolate myself and fall into blurred numbness until the cycle naturally renews itself.

So it was this context in which I experienced Paul’s presentation. There was something about the keen intellect, gentle wisdom, and graceful humor that Paul shared throughout his presentation that allowed me to temporarily “suspend my disbelief” enough to bring my full attention to the prayer he leads at the end. “Okay, I’ll play along,” I said to myself. “I’ll set aside my cynicism, do the prayer, and see what happens.” Fake it ’til you make it, a very wise woman once told me. So I tried it. To tell you the truth, the results surprised me.

I imagined Jesus sitting in front of me, as Paul prompted me to do, visualizing His face until I could feel His presence before me. It felt odd at first, but after a few minutes of silence, I thought I felt something. I began my prayer.

“Please help me,” I whispered.

I’d never really been able to ask for help before. At least not in this way. It was painful to put the words together in my mind. What if nothing happens? What if no one answers? What if there’s no help to be had? I’d almost rather never ask, than to find out the terrible truth: that this is a fantasy, that there is nobody there, and that I must ultimately bear this cross alone. Tears streamed down my face.

In that instant, all I can say is that Jesus responded. I looked into the face of Christ, and felt His eyes soften.

That was all it was. Just a softening of His eyes.

And in that same moment, I felt something shift inside of me. It seemed to flow from a source that was at once within me and without me. There was a soft warm glow in my solar plexus, and for the very first time I felt that something was helping me hold all of this fear, all of this pain, all of this beautiful agony. For a moment, the unreasonable gravity of life didn’t feel quite so heavy. In that moment I knew I was feeling Christ’s Love. I was drenched in it. It was something I had never really felt before, at least not to this magnitude — and yet, it was everything I had ever felt before, all at once. I was overwhelmed, and I was grateful.

It’s funny, it had never really occurred to me that the reason I’d never had a relationship with Jesus Christ was simply because no one had ever bothered to introduce us. Which seems rather important, “personal God” and all. I have the sense that this is true for a great many of us. For me, this was probably the only sort of introduction that would have worked — one that used humor to disarm my skepticism, one that opened my mind by first satisfying my intellect, one that opened my heart by coming from a man as lovely and as kind as Paul Smith.

I was missing this all-important “Spirit in 2nd-person” piece from my own spiritual toolkit, and suffered for its absence. I’ve paid plenty of lip service to it over the years, understanding its importance intellectually, but largely missing the point in my own practice. I knew the signifier very well, but held only a glimmer of the reality it actually signified.

I haven’t quite felt the same since this experience. Of course, the pain and fear have not gone away, and I have collapsed and re-emerged at least a dozen different times between then and now. But since that first genuine encounter with Christ, I now have a resource I never knew I had before. I have somewhere to go, someone to call upon whenever things get too heavy. I don’t pray for an easier life, I don’t really think that’s how this works. But I do know that I can always ask for help and pray for more strength when I need it.

So I would like to sincerely thank Paul for this personal introduction to Jesus, and for helping me begin to discover my own transforming friendship with Him. I sincerely hope he can do the same for you.

Other pieces in this series

Paul Smith

About Paul Smith

Paul Smith is the author of Integral Christianity: The Spirit's Call to Evolve. He is a teacher and has recently retired after serving 49 years as minister at Broadway Church in Kansas City, Missouri. While in high school he founded a series of spiritually transforming youth camps and college retreats that were attended by thousands of young people annually over a period of ten years. After his undergraduate degree from Washington University and Master’s degree in theology and biblical studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he came to Broadway Baptist Church in midtown Kansas City, Missouri in 1963.