Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Something Spiritual

If we're going to talk about the spiritual disciplines, then it makes sense to start out by talking about what these disciplines actually are. Most of us are pretty sure we know; the spiritual disciplines are all of those boring things we do at church on Sunday that we're supposed to fall in love with - reading the Bible, praying, singing/worshiping. When I was in youth group, we used to have as our standard answer to just about any Christian question, "pray, read the Bible, go to church." 

And then, we struggle because these things are hard for some of us. They aren't our natural inclination. So we tell ourselves that that's what makes them "disciplines;" they're hard. And they're supposed to be hard. 

What if the spiritual disciplines aren't supposed to be hard? (Spoiler alert: they're not.) 

Well, the first place to start is to reframe our definition of what the spiritual disciplines really are. Because yes, they include praying, reading the Bible, going to church, and worshiping, but they also include a lot of other things. Like...napping?

The spiritual disciplines are the things that we engage in that bring us closer to God. They are the things that connect us to His heart, to His character, to His goodness and to all that He has created in us and in the world. They are the things that engage us with Him, that put us right in the midst of what He's doing in His presence in our world. They are the things that we see His people doing with Him throughout His Word...and even beyond that. 

So is taking a walk around the neighborhood a spiritual discipline? It can be, if you're using that time to connect with God. Remember, God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day; He walked with His disciples around Jerusalem and Galilee; He joined His disciples on the road to Emmaus. From the very beginning, God's people have been walking with Him. So maybe walking with God - literally - is your spiritual discipline. 

How about art? Some of us just love to sit down and put pencil to paper or paint to wall. Is this a spiritual discipline? Remember that God endowed His creation with the ability to create. Remember, too, that when God was ready to build a dwelling place among them, He called craftsmen through their beautiful gift of art, and they were able to share that with His people to draw everyone closer to Him. It is absolutely a spiritual discipline to create - whether it's art or crafting or woodwork or even cooking. When you engage in the creative work that the Creator has instilled in you and you use that to connect with Him, that is a spiritual discipline. 

I mentioned napping earlier. Is napping really a spiritual discipline? Of course it is! God has called us to be a people who rest, not a people who toil endlessly like so many peoples in the world. Lying yourself down and entrusting yourself to His care while you feed your body's need for rest is absolutely a spiritual discipline. In fact, one of my seminary professors even introduced napping as a spiritual discipline during day 1 of a retreat-like course in spiritual formation. And then, he gave us the afternoon to "practice!" When we engage in rest, purposeful rest (not idleness or boredom), then we are engaging in a spiritual discipline. 

Maybe you're thinking about service. Service is an act of worship, and that makes it a spiritual discipline. If giving is the way that you connect with God, then engage in giving. Volunteer. Donate. Be conscious and conscientious about what you are investing in with what God has invested in  you. 

Anything that you do that connects you with God, if it is goodness, can be a spiritual discipline. It's not just the "boring" stuff - pray, read the Bible, go to church, sing - although it can include all of those. The spiritual disciplines are life-giving practices. So if you look at the list of the things that we usually think of, and your initial reaction is, ugh, go look for the thing that doesn't make you grumble. Go look for the thing that doesn't make you groan. Start there. Start with something you love. Start with something that lights the fire in you. Start with a discipline that brings you joy and turns you toward God. 

Take a walk. Cook a meal. Paint a picture. Have a nap. Whatever it is, start there. This is your spiritual discipline. 

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