Twice last week I came across the phrase “but if you will commit to your spiritual growth…” and it has led to a line of thought that I have really needed and loved. I have described the last 13 years or more of my life as being on a spiritual journey, and while the journey will continue, to some degree, the rest of my life because Jesus told us to keep searching, knocking and asking, I now feel like I want/need to be at a place of spiritual growth. Yes, the journey part definitely led to growth all along the way, but the thought of a committed effort to spiritual growth suggests being in a more settled place, a calmer place. Less doing and more being. Putting down more roots and pushing past the doubts, and to quote Donald Miller from his blog, “to do the work even when we are uninspired.”
Along with the prospect of spiritual growth, I have found a need to redefine spirituality as well. The last couple of weeks I found myself in a oft times familiar place of questions with no answers, longings with no relief, angst with no answers; all very powerful feelings that left me restless, frustrated and a little bit depressed. I know from experience though, God leads me to that uncomfortable place because He wants me to move and/or change; whether in a literal way such as actually get up and do something different, or a more internal way like change how I view something or approach something.
I also recognize that some of the feelings are not of God but He can use them nonetheless. I lived with these feelings for nearly two weeks because even though I was pretty miserable, ironically I didn’t want to sit with those questions, feelings, frustrations LONG ENOUGH to get clarity and direction. I wanted to know what to do/be but I didn’t want to know! Am I the only one who feels like this?? I hope not!
Part of the problem was a lack of faith on my part that God really does know what He is doing. Another quote I read last week from Donald Miller’s blog was, “Faith is a long series of questions that are not answered but resolved. It’s trusting God with all the unanswered questions because it is all the unanswered questions that stir the longings in the first place.”
Back to the concept of spiritual growth…what does that look like? For me, it’s not reading my Bible more or praying more. It’s not going to church. Those 3 areas could very well be part of it for some but for me right now, that isn’t the issue. I don’t want to be told to “go to church” because that sounds and feels exactly like the trite answer I used to hear (and God forbid, I possibly actually told someone), “you just need to be in every meeting because you will get your answers there.” The answers I got in meetings were far more the group’s answers to my questions than they were God’s answers to my questions.
I have realized that I need to redefine my “spiritual” life. While I was in the meeting church, my spiritual life definition was only the time I spent reading the Bible, praying or being in a meeting. Then, after I left the meetings, I removed the distinction between my “spiritual life” and my “natural life”. What that meant was that I could now include God in all parts of my life knowing that He was very interested and invested in all of my days and that He truly was with me all the time.
Now, however, I’m feeling like there is a whole lot more to my spiritual life than I’ve ever realized. My spiritual life encompasses the part of me that will live forever. There is an immense and powerful spiritual world out there and my spirit is part of that. I want nothing to do with the spirit of Darkness and Evil. I only want to be surrounded by and filled with the Spirit of God; the Spirit of Light and Truth and Love. That is what I want to know so much more about. To be filled with more and more of the fullness of God.
There was a line of a hymn we would sing in the meetings that came to mind, “To see His hand in everything; in great events and small”. I have just expressed my distinction of how my spiritual and my natural life shifted when I left the meetings to where now I include God in all parts of my life. But that line of that hymn suggests something different yet again: It is not a matter of us including Him in all aspects of our lives, but its realizing that He has included us in everything; in great events and small. He has created everything so we can be involved in it all. Every single day. It’s not me being generous of heart and mind and letting Him in but it’s Him being generous of heart and giving us parts of Himself everywhere. Such as all these amazing things He has created that are continually unfolding season after season. Acknowledging those things, giving thanks for them, reveling in their beauty. It’s all part of being spiritual because all the praise and the happiness and the joy they bring goes back to God. I’m watching as I write my spring flowers unfolding outside and it is bringing me so much joy to do that simple act.
I am ashamed to admit that when I was still in the meetings, had I heard about someone simply enjoying flowers blooming and they called that part of their spirituality, I would have called them shallow and assumed that was all there was to their spirituality. Man, was I judgmental and such a good Pharisee. Ugh.
Yesterday God spoke to me as I was considering all of these things and said, “Read Proverbs”. I’ve never particularly been drawn to that book. I read it in The Voice translation and it came alive. Solomon found Wisdom everywhere he looked and then wrote about it. He found the true Spiritual everywhere and especially (what I would have previously called) in the “natural” life. He found Wisdom there as well as in the obvious ‘mountaintop’ experiences. Only having the meeting mindset for most of my life about this matter explains why conventions were so revered; it was because convention was basically one of the few times a year when we spent considerable amount of time ‘on the mountaintop’ and because that was the only place we believed you could find God or that He could find you.
Proverbs, however, takes our ‘natural’ lives and packs them full of God! How cool is that?! I like how the introduction in my NKJV describes Proverbs: “It provides God’s detailed instructions…to deal successfully with the practical affairs of everyday life.” How and why did we ever believe God wasn’t involved? The NKJV also says that the key word in Proverbs is wisdom and yet it is a book filled with real life. Wisdom is mentioned 38 times in Proverbs according to my KJV concordance.
Christina Baldwin writes in Life’s Companion: Journal Writing As A Spiritual Quest if we “ready ourselves with spiritual openness, eventually we will come to the awareness that spirituality is the sacred center of which all life comes, including Monday’s and Tuesday’s, and rainy Saturday afternoon’s in all their mundane and glorious details.” Again, to me it is seeing God’s hand I everything, in great events and small. I have been guilty of compartmentalizing God. I now want to see life as so much more than I previously have; I want to see it as being spiritual, creative and practical. I know this sounds a bit new age-y but I don’t mean it to. Realizing that the spiritual, practical and the creative can’t be separated “because they each count, they each mean something makes life feel not as fraught, as frazzled, or as fragmented as before”. (Sarah Ban Breathnach Simple Abundance) That just makes so much sense to me. It is making life make so much more sense.
I have to share a few verses from The Voice Bible translation of Proverbs
1:22 Lady Wisdom speaking: How long will you enjoy making fun of what you don’t understand? You fools, how long will you hate learning what truly matters?
1:23 Turn to me and receive my gentle correction; watch and I will pour out my spirit on you; I will share with you my wise words in order to redirect your lives.
3:21,23-25 (a) Never lose sight of God’s wisdom and knowledge; make decisions out of true wisdom, guard your good sense, Then each one of your steps will land securely on your life’s journey, and you will not trip or fall. Your mind will be clear, free from fear, when you lie down to rest, you will be refreshed by sweet sleep. Stay calm.
4:7-9 Go after Lady Wisdom! Now, whatever else you do, follow through to understanding. Cherish her, and she will help you rise above the confusion of life—your possibilities will open up before you—embrace her, and she will raise you to a place of honor in return. She will provide the finishing touch to your character—grace; she will give you an elegant confidence.
8:6 Lady Wisdom is speaking: Listen, for I am about to tell you of unparalleled excellence and beauty, what I am about to say will set things right.
The Book of Proverbs is extremely spiritual after all! I am thrilled.