Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the broad view of spirituality

Many people don’t consider themselves to be “spiritual.” We hear it all the time, don't we?—Oh, I’m not a spiritual person. Well, news flash! No one is not spiritual, or to put it in the positive: We all have a spiritual dimension to our existence. The difference is in the use of the word, I think. “Spiritual” conjures up a limited set of images—images of people who dedicate some time each day to prayer, people who can talk about their relationship with God, people who seem to be more aware of God than others, etc.

I take a much broader view, especially after reading Ron Rolheiser's book The Holy Longing several years ago. Spirit is the life-force within us—it is that which animates and energizes us. And “spiritual” is simply what we do with that life-force, all that energy and passion within us. We can focus it in healthy (and difficult) ways, ways that help us as Christians move ever more toward the imago Christi, the image of Christ within us. Or we can focus it in unhealthy (and probably easier) ways, like being a couch potato, avoiding intimacy, or giving in to addictive temptations like alcohol, sex, food, shopping, drugs, etc.

Make no mistake: healthy spirituality, the kind that really transforms us, takes a heavy dose of courage. More about that below. My main point here is that spirituality is more than our culturally limited view of it. You don’t have to be introvert, or an intuitive, or a ‘feeling’ person to have a healthy, robust spiritual life. I know people who spend time with God while riding bicycles...One friend of mine expresses her devotion to God by living a good life, behaving in ways that are upright and moral...Other folks have transformative experiences of the Divine through the life of the mind—intellectual development, reading and learning, attending lectures, etc.... And then there are those who are more suited to meditation and specific times set aside for prayer each day......Much of my own spirituality comes through intimate relationships—soul friends. I can’t tell you how many times Christ has been incarnated for me through other people, people who have simply been there for me when I was hurting, people who somehow how found the right words to say, people who care.

Let me return for a moment to the difficulty inherent in a healthy spirituality. It’s not that God’s influence can’t come upon us suddenly—many people have surprisingly abrupt experiences that transform them forever. But God is always influencing us, always there calling us toward that which is good, just, true, kind, beautiful, peaceful, etc. Unless we are working to remove the obstacles to God’s influence, then more often than not we ignore that influence and go about our lives as if we are in control! :-) Working at some kind of spiritual discipline—one that makes sense for our personality type and life experience—makes it more likely that we’ll be able to sense God’s influence in our lives, hear that “still small voice,” see the Divine in other people, know which way to turn when we have a major decision facing us, bear with grace whatever suffering life might throw our way…

1 comment:

RJ said...

Hey... as you know my sense of spiritual discipline has sorta "expanded" in these days to include so many different ways of living/being: music, art, dance, film and sculpture are more and more my way of prayer. Thanks for writing this. It touched something sweet inside me. Blessings.