My biggest criticism of the “spiritual but not religious” crowd is that too many of them use the label as an excuse for avoiding the hard work of spiritual practice and the accountability of religious community. But that criticism raises the question “how much is enough?” How much spiritual practice is enough? How much study is enough? How much social action is enough? How much witness is enough? How much worship is enough?
In the small Baptist church where I grew up, one of the preacher’s favorite expressions was “get on fire for God.” His meaning was clear – he wanted everyone to be fully engaged in every activity of the church, and he wanted everyone reading the Bible and praying every day.
That infuriated me. I remember screaming (inside my head, anyway) “not everyone is called to be a preacher!” I had no desire to be “on fire” for God or for anything else.
When I found the path to which I was truly called, things changed. All of a sudden I was engaging in spiritual and religious practice because I wanted to, not because I thought I was supposed to. After 18 years of Pagan practice (the last 10 of them seriously) I haven’t lost interest – which borders on the miraculous for someone with such a short attention span and wide variety of interests. Clearly, this is my calling.
But at times I wonder: is it enough? And then I wonder if that question is the remnants of that Baptist preacher, or if it’s my own perfectionism… or if it’s a certain god telling me I need to do and be more than I’m doing and being.
I came across some blog posts last week that bordered on scary. First was this one from Rev. Victoria Weinstein, aka “PeaceBang.” In the discussion about the Spiritual But Not Religious, someone asked if all religions didn’t start out as something somebody just made up. Here’s PeaceBang’s response in total:
No. They started as a shocking, disturbing and demanding theophany to a usually unwilling prophet who was then called to sacrifice everything he previously understood or intuited as good — not as a comfortable feeling in some privileged person’s tummy that kept them comfy.
The big hammer came from Juniper of Walking the Hedge. Juniper is a Hedgewitch – a contemporary shaman, more or less – and also a contributor to To Fly By Night, an excellent book on Hedgewitchery. Juniper’s post is titled “It’s All Rather a lot of Bother.” Juniper lists in detail some of her spiritual obligations – things she must do to maintain relationships with the spirits who work with her. It’s quite informative and I encourage you to go read the whole thing. But here’s the part that grabbed me.
There is no such thing as “good enough” in a spiritual practice, especially when that “good enough” means you did next to nothing at all. A spiritual Path is not supposed to be easy and the gods don’t like lazy people.
The gods, spirits and ancestors do not reward people who do not do the work to earn their respect. If you want to develop a relationship with the Otherworld and the Spirits of the Land you have to earn it. You cannot simply show up with your hand out expecting a prize, for no work, like a spoiled child.
For someone who is still too literal-minded for his own good, hearing “there is no such thing as good enough” is a bit disturbing. But when a Hedgewitch and a UU minister are singing the same song, I have sense enough to pay attention.
I spent this weekend in the woods – both physically and spiritually (I had intended to get this post up before I left, but between crises at my paying job and getting ready for the trip, I didn’t). The Denton CUUPS group had a combination camping trip and Mabon ritual… which had nothing to do with Mabon and everything to do with communing with our deities.
What I experienced was too intense to share in a public forum. It was both challenging and comforting. It was comforting in that I am now certain there really is such a thing as “good enough” and I am also certain that I am not called to the strict obligations both Juniper and PeaceBang described. But it was challenging in that I am now equally certain the work I have been called to do has its own obligations and while I take them seriously I have not given them the priority they require.
Not every distraction comes via the TV or the internet.
How much is enough? All that you are called to do. No more, and no less.