On a recent hike with Steve, a chemical engineer friend, I explained how the day after Christmas God had prompted me–at least I think it was God–to actively seek out the God-created soul in daily life.
“I’m calling 2012 The Year of Living Spiritually,” I told Steve. Then I breathlessly recounted several exciting stories of God sightings I’d had and how I was trying to pry beneath the surface of things and see people and experiences for who and what they really were: created and loved by God. I told him how much this experiment was changing me.
“It’s an experiment,” I said, hoping scientific, engineer language would help him understand. “I’m recording my experiences in a journal every day and reporting them in a blog called The Year of Living Spiritually. And my son, Brendan, and I have started a Facebook page where we can all compare our Living Spiritually experiences. I’d love it if you took part?”
Steve is practical, concrete, down-to-earth, in short an engineer. He wiped his hand through his wispy blond hair and looked at me as if I’d just asked him to count how many angels can dance on the point of a needle.
“So, what is it exactly I’d be doing if I joined you in this Living Spiritually experiment?”
What the Hell is Living Spiritually?
Good question. I had no easy answer. As far as I know he’s not yet joined the exepriment.
I’m obviously not an engineer, but even I know spiritual things are intangible and therefore hard to see much less measure. My greatest lesson of 2012 so far is that talking about being spiritual is much easier than living spiritual.
I think several people involved in The Year of Living Spiritually have hit the same roadblock and are asking the same question. I know, for me, some days look and feel just like any other day I was not trying to live spiritually. And then when something spiritual does happen, I wonder if I’ve made it up or just have gas or something.
A Prickly Pear Cactus: Joy & Sadness
In the fall, Steve, my engineer friend, will often pause on our hikes and gather handfuls of wild chokecherries and we eat them while hiking. Other hikers rush right by. Another day he showed me we could eat the fruit from a Prickly Pear Cactus. I’ve lived around these cacti all my life and never knew you could eat the fruit. It was a delicious little gift on a mundane hike. Steve always points out wildlife and all kinds of fun things on hikes.
Often a daily mundaneness numbs me. So, I decided I’d turn Living Spiritually into a metaphysical scavenger hunt and daily search out and write down one joy and one sadness, like picking fruit off the side of the trail.
Searching out joy may seem obvious. But there is a lot of trouble and hurt in our world, big and little. We get overwhelmed by it and maybe miss a sparkle of light in the middle of daily dimness.
The ancient Christians had a proverb: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Yesterday my joy was grilling steaks, tossing a salad, and drinking wine. Dee Dee says it’s the first meal I’ve cooked for her in 32 years of marriage. She smiled. I did too.
But life is more complicated than the glass being half-full or half-empty. Sometimes the glass is heavy.
Another biblical proverb says it well: “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” We learn and grow most from our pain and sadness, if we pay attention and break out of denial. The Prickly Pear is a cactus.
Reading through my journals, I notice I write about a couple of big life questions or struggles regularly. I’m insecure at times. I still haven’t finished my novel. This makes me sad. I wish I were more disciplined and more . . . . whatever. There is also evidence in my journals I have grown, however, if even slightly. I don’t think I would have, if I had ignored these issues.
What the hell is living spiritually? It’s taking a daily hike into your soul and noticing, tasting, the sweet and sour, joy and sadness of life. There’s a lot out there we don’t notice. Since that day I started recording one joy and one sadness, I’ve added some variety. Now I am also often writing about one memory, one thing I’ve found or lost, one thing I’ve learned, and a prayer to sum that day up.
Maybe now I can go back to Steve–and you–and ask again: “I’d love it if you took part in this Year of Living Spiritually.”
Eugene C. Scott may have only “cooked” one full meal for Dee Dee, but he has grilled entire herds of steaks and burgers. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the page.