Spiritual Direction: Talking About Spiritual Life

Spiritual Direction: Talking About Spiritual Life December 1, 2022

Spiritual Direction: Talking About Spiritual Life

Talking About Spiritual Life

There are people who talk to me who seem particularly uncomfortable talking about spiritual life. Some of them ask me whether I really am a Christian and, if I am, why do I not sound like one? They think all my talk of spiritual life and sacred stillness sounds a little vague.

Some people want to understand how I experience spiritual life. Others seem a little nervous I am trying to put something over on them.

Let me assure you my spiritual journey grows in and reflects the Christian tradition. I have spent time in a number of different Christian churches and denominations, primarily Protestant ones.

I was born a Methodist and became a Congregationalist by the time I was in first or second grade. A pastor and his family moved in across the road from us and we began attending their church. That is the church where I began to appreciate spiritual life.

When I was eight years old I was “born again” and accepted Jesus into my heart. I was baptized there. It shaped how I have been talking about spiritual life since then in significant ways.

There have been other churches along the way. I have been a member of Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as nondenominational congregations. Two different Baptist denominations welcomed me. I have been a confirmed member of the Episcopal church for quite some time.

I am also a lay Oblate at a Roman Catholic Benedictine hermitage.

Each of the churches on my long and winding path has shaped how I talk about spiritual life. Like with any friend we have had for a long time, the ways I know God have grown and developed.

I am not talking about spiritual life the same way I did when I was eight years old.

Are We Talking About Spiritual Life?

Each of us talks about and hears spiritual life in our own unique, personal ways.

For some of us it has been used to intimidate us or make us feel guilty. Some of remember it primarily when we are frustrated or when we hit our toe on something hard.

Others of us ask spiritual life to help us when we most need it. Some of us cry out for strength or for mercy. I know people who ask for help as they deal with addiction or other illnesses. Other people depend on spiritual life as they lose someone they love or struggle to find a new job.

Many of us do not grasp most of the intricate details of theology or philosophy. We do appreciate, though, spiritual life in human form. I know people who find great hope in the idea God can relate to us in our everyday lives.

I know many people who, whether they call themselves Christian or not, appreciate spiritual life.

It is easy for some of us to get distracted and coat spiritual life in layers of religious syrup. We think we are supposed to be nice and polite and respect other people, to say please and thank you. That is not the picture I get when I listen to sacred stillness.

The spiritual life I experience and read about is insightful and authentic. Spiritual life is not afraid to take time to be honest with us, no matter who we are. It looks people in the eye and asks them the questions they are most hoping to avoid. Spiritual life responds to us in ways which exceed our expectations.

It can be a challenge for us to see past the accumulated layers of interpretation and assumptions to the truth.

When We Are Talking About Spiritual Life

Lots of us have opinions and feelings about spiritual life. Some of them are strong ones. It can be a challenge for us to hear spiritual life speak on its own behalf.

I understand we do not have a complete, annotated transcript of what spiritual life has to tell us. Accounts we read have been transmitted by word of mouth and eventually written down. Each version has its own nuances and points of emphasis. It is often a challenge for us to fit different accounts together.

Consistent themes emerge even from varied accounts.

Spiritual life tells us our actions speak louder than our words. It tends to value insightful questions more than concise answers. Again and again spiritual life asks us direct questions and prompts us to examine how we live our everyday lives.

The examples spiritual life gives are from experiences with which we are familiar. It does not speak to us in elaborate theories or complex explanations.

Spiritual life appears to work hard to put significant truths into language we can appreciate. It does not get caught up in the religious vernacular of the day.

What Do We Mean When We Are Talking About Spiritual Life?

I think many of us do not know what we really mean when we are talking about spiritual life.

We feel overwhelmed by the size and power of spiritual life and decide we do not have time to really explore it. It seems easier and takes less time when we fall back on theological language.

When we look at the picture of spiritual life in our mind’s eye we think we see the same person as everyone else. Each of us, though, sees our own picture with its own, unique meaning.

We do not need to discover the final answers to all our questions. That is not the most important part. What is important is we explore and grapple with our questions.

Our questions are not intended to help us know everything. Each one is a gift which draws us to see our lives in new ways and remember who we are becoming.

The spiritual life I know believes in the power of asking good questions. It does not use jargon to avoid exploring.

Who do we see when we are talking about spiritual life today?

What will we mean as we are talking about spiritual life this month?

[Image by frotzed2]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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