Have we made it too easy on you? Paul wanted to know when he addressed the Corinthians in what we list as his second letter to them. (He says it is actually the third time but we don’t know what the missing letter says.)
As long as Jesus was teaching and healing and feeding the multitudes they gladly followed him. When he talked about the need to actually live with him – being open, caring, and sacrificially giving – they decided it was too difficult.
When Francis of Assisi started his order, he was a much admired spiritual leader. Many came to join his new order, wanting to be like him. When they discovered that it took a great deal of spiritual discipline and the sacrifice of earthly ambitions and comforts, they rebelled. In fact, they tried to poison him.
Some people go to 12-step meetings and treat them as a place where they can talk about their sorry lives. As long as the meetings are basically like sober bars where you can get sympathetic listening ears for your pity party, they are fine. Once the reality hits that it actually takes work and some hard self-evaluation, they stop. Those who are willing to do the work are rewarded, but they will tell you it is work.
A spiritual journey is not a magic carpet ride. You can’t take a pill for it. No one has a magic wand to wave over you and make you all better.
Most religions call for certain sacrifices and the performances of rituals. Those are the easy parts. God calls us to a more difficult journey. We have to do honest soul searching. We can’t turn away from our own brokenness, we can’t ignore the harm we have done to others, and we can’t shirk the responsibilities we have to this world. Nor can we isolate ourselves from the world and all its ills.
Some mountain climbers will tell you about the breath-taking views, the sense of accomplishment and the exhilaration that they have once they have reached the pinnacle of a mountain. They don’t talk as much about the great risks and the price they paid physically in order to get there. The same is true with those we call spiritual giants throughout history. We can’t teleport or even fly to the level they have achieved. We have to do the climbing ourselves.