I have recently been marking a few post-graduate dissertations. One of them impressed me very much, not because the argument was good, but that one can clearly sense that the writer was not only writing about spirituality, but that the writer was sharing spirituality. Do you know what I mean?
I notice spirituality in the writings of several other writers: Wesley, Barth, Moltmann, Bell... none of whom were or are saints, and one does not agree with everything they say, but there is an honest journey with God, based on love, which is reflected in their sharing. I think one of the tests every theologian (whether "professional" or not) should undergo, is the test of self. Let's be blunt. There are those in the spirituality industry, whether in churches or academia who do theology, but it barely makes it out the office door along with them when they leave for home. A lot of noise, or the aim of making a name for themselves by trying to be shocking with controversial statements, articles or presentations. But when one looks at their lives, it is difficult to see...love.
Let me not judge, for I must undergo the same test each day myself. But I think you catch my drift. It reminds me of that passage in 1 Corinthians 13:1 "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (NRSV). 'A noise gong', a powerful symbol. A lot of noise, but that is all it is. No integrity, no integration between belief and knowledge. No integration between life and faith. A noisy gong.
Now, if one gives a gong attention, it aims to make a louder noise. If one tries to stop it, it keeps clanging away, trying to drown out any question. It is not subject to scrutiny or investigation, for its own sound is the only sound that seems valid. Gongs try to dominate relationships and conversations. Gongs can make a contribution through.
Take for instance the cymbals in an orchestra. There are points in a musical movement where the cymbals clash. It does so occasionally, under control, but in harmony with the rest of the instruments. One does not find any musical movement where the cymbals dominate. If they do, the audience will leave with a headache.
Love. If love does not saturate and direct one's life, then whatever comes out your mouth and performed through your actions, will be nothing but noise.