My previous post brought a few good comments from people who have seen the same dangers I have. Now I want to reflect on Spiritual Welfare which is the way out of the trap. How we take care of ourselves is as important as our goals for health and wellbeing. There is no way to peace, as the saying goes, “peace is the way.” Our spiritual welfare depends on the ways we choose to help ourselves. Christian spirituality is rooted in the love of Christ. The love demonstrated by Jesus in life – the Way of the Cross – is the end of our spiritual work.
Do No Harm
A recent viewing of the latest installment of The Conjuring series reminded me of this Wesleyan rule. Spiritual living is not fighting the enemies of Christ. The Desert Fathers and Mothers fought the passions that plague humanity. These passions were faults within themselves as well as in other people. We are not trying to become heroic “warrior’s for Christ” battling the evils we see in other people. We are working to overcome the evils we share. If we take the former approach, we are more likely to cause harm to others. When we take the latter approach, we learn to have grace and live in peace. Whatever actions that cause harm disrupts that “Way of the Cross.”
Seek the Welfare of the Community
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city…Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7). This passage is troublesome. Nothing could be more cynical than asking, “how does my helping you benefit me?.” Yet, it is possible to see the idea another way. I take an interest in the health of my community. Will I benefit? Perhaps. But I am determined to do good for the sake of doing good for someone else.
Hating one’s own home is like hating one’s own body. One may wish to destroy it. But that one will not be better for it. Doing harm is the opposite of seeking the welfare of other people.
Praying Is Not Talking
Praying may be speaking. But it is not talking only about one’s self. The popular Just A Little Talk With Jesus claims an intimacy does not exist for most of us. Jesus taught against prayers that were “empty phrases.” A preacher who decided prayer was only about praising God left people wandering if he used flattery to keep divine attention on himself.
Prayer is reading, meditating, fasting, feasting, loving, and conversing.
Prayer is also work. A person can use work that does not engage the mind as a time of reflection and communion with the Divine.
Prayer is rest. Often prayer means stopping after mentally exhausting work is completed.
Seek the Welfare of Your Body
A person’s own welfare is important for spiritual living. Having a clear mind and an open spirit has a lot to do with one’s physical wellbeing. I could never get a clear enough mind to know something was wrong until I was a few weeks off of alcohol. This is the reason Ephesians counsels the church “not to be drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) People do not possess bodies. People are bodies as well as minds and spirits.
Nutrition and exercise are important needs. It helps keep one in good order. Prayer is also about ordering one’s life. People seek this balance in their lives. But they are often inordinate about how they do it. Jesus advises his disciples to seek the Kingdom of God first to have this balance.
Spiritual quests often become toxic. The reasons are based on how some practitioner or advisor overemphasized a practice. Extreme fasting will kill. Nikolai Gogol is the best example of this. One must keep check on the passions that lead a person to self-defeat. Pride and envy lead people to lose sight of the peace they seek even in spirituality. These are the two passions that cause toxicity in the drive of many to be holy quickly, to battle the “Enemy” in others, and to love nothing but winning. Getting out and staying out of the spiritual warfare trap is important for our growing in perfect love.