What does a spiritual life look like? That’s been the question nagging me since I started this living spiritual experiment.
Some, especially those of monkish makeup, strive to live spiritually by denying the importance of the material world. They deny the flesh. The body is a shell for the more beautiful and important soul. And if that hunk of meat messes up, pulverize it. As I wrote in my last blog, perfection through discipline is the goal.
Most of us know, however, that we run out of steam and muscle long before we reach a perfect spiritual life.
Others strive for a melding of body and soul in some fluid dance where every action has a bigger purpose. Where body and soul mesh and live at peace, sipping coffee and sharing deep insights together. Though I don’t dance, much to my wife’s chagrin, this would be me.
The trouble is my body keeps stepping on my soul’s toes. Or to use the other metaphor, since I’ve mixed them already, I know, darn sure, my body is ready to get some work done and quit sitting around talking. Coffee or no coffee. “Get a travel cup and let’s get moving.”
There is no perfection here either.
Both of these paths are flawed. Because they both hold as their goal perfection. And they both miss the mark.
They don’t take into account an ancient and unpleasant concept: sin.
Sin is not anyone’s favorite word. We all want to deny its existence, especially personally. Though it’s pretty easy to call out and name in others. At least for me it is. Deny it or not, sin still catches each of us in a half-Nelson and throws us to the mat.
When we hear the word sin we automatically jump to pictures of Hitler and serial killers and TV preachers. And to be sure all are sinners. Me too.
But sin is not only the horrific or personally abhorrent. It is the inability to reach that perfection we all strive for. It is not being able to love enough, not forgiving even when we want to. Sin is, no matter how much I practice, no matter how carefully I aim, no matter how close to the target I stand, missing dead center. Anywhere from a few inches low and to the left to missing the whole damned thing. It’s all the same when striving for perfection. Close, they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Oh yeah, and in government work.
Close does not much count in matters of the soul.
So, what does a spiritual life look like? Not perfection. And not a solo act either. Spiritual living is admitting I can’t achieve perfection and that I need God’s help in even living a meaningful life. It is agreeing with God that I have not and cannot make it on my own.
A spiritual life, then, is one that revels in God’s mercy and the ability to live each day hitting close enough, because God alone is responsible for perfection.
What Does a Spiritual Life Look Like?
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oh, hello!,… I was just going to get busy w/ some household projects,… I agree that truly blessed “spiritual states” (of love and peace and so on ) are a gift to us from God’s realm,… we are blessed to be able to participate in God’s realm,… sometimes “it’s” there, but we don’t really feel it, or can’t notice it,… maybe this makes us feel bad, but it doesn’t need to,… maybe when we slow down, we’ll find it again,…
if I were an energetic body-centered person (and I have been, more so, in years gone by), I would be happy to dedicate every effort, — including paint spills, the resulting “cuss words”, tired and exasperated responses, broken china, lost keys, etc, and the successes, — to God,… if this is all I’m capable of doing, while trying to “do my best”, then so be it,… why get frustrated?
if I’m trying sincerely to do well, what more can I do?,… if, however, I had mean or vindictive motives mixed in, that would be another story,… perhaps it is something that can be worked out by bringing myself and my attitudes and problems to God,… God does love us, and is happy if/when we let Him be God,… & not us being “God wannabes”,…
God is perfect,… but nobody ever said human beings are perfect,… if our intentions are truly good, we’ll become more and more “like Him”, most likely, as the years go by,…
Rome wasn’t built in a day,…
Reality memo: “life on earth” is NOT “a piece of cake”,… satan and 1/3 of the angels in heaven were cast down to earth,… now they are considered “fallen angels” = demons,… their spirit of rebellion against God (and man) continues unabated,… and conditions on earth — as beautiful as some things are — have been rendered “more painful and difficult and challenging” because of the fall,… (personally, I imagine that poison ivy and snake venom are also results of the fall,… but I can’t prove it,…)
Life on earth IS work and involves placing positive resistance against many forces that will automatically “weigh us down”,… like gravity,… like our biochemistry that has to be fed and rested to be restored,… like the exacting calculations and plans of “physics”, that will only work perfectly in the resistance-less-ness of outer space,… or, forces that oppose us,… like our emotions when discouragement sets in,… this is true for all of us, physically and spiritually,…
7 “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels went forth to battle with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought.
8 “But they were defeated, and there was no room found for them in heaven any longer.
9 “And the huge dragon was cast down and out—that age-old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, he who is the seducer (deceiver) of all humanity the world over; he was forced out and down to the earth, and his angels were flung out along with him.”
Isaiah 14:12 [ The Fall of Lucifer ] “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!”
17 “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!’
18 “And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan falling like a lightning [flash] from heaven.
19 “‘Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.'”
Whether we think of our lives on earth as a battle, or not,… it is one, one way or another,… surviving is good,… helping to lift others up is good too,… getting tired is bound to happen,… some days will be ugly,… it’s all “par for the course”,…
In the end,… we win!
I think a spiritual life looks like a life lived in sacrificial love for God and others (Romans 12 illuminates this for me). Other definitions (a rich devotional life, a life of ministry and service to others) are integral parts of a spiritual life, but the end of every action or belief can only be love.
Well said, Laurel. A good reminder for me. How is life in Xela? I so enjoyed our time together.
Could it be walking towards God through spiritual disciplines and being made like Christ in the process?
Sorry for the delayed reply. You are right. Mark Buchanan, http://markbuchanan.net, wrote a fantastic book called “Your God is too Safe” with that very idea behind it.