Thinking about your spirituality? Wondering if there is something deeper and more meaningful for your life? You’re not alone. George Barna, the researcher, has unearthed a condition of modern American life: “…recent studies at our Barna Research Group shows that more and more people are plagued by a nagging emptiness that is anchored deep within themselves. It is a crisis of meaning that affects millions of Americans.”
Millions of people feel an emptiness and recognize it as a lack of spiritual growth on their part. So they search for something spiritual to fill that void. Unfortunately, many are searching in the wrong place, their energies being diffused by an errant understanding of spirituality.
I was recently contacted by the publishers of a website devoted to exploring spiritual issues for businesspeople. “Would I like to contribute some content?” they wanted to know. Before I answered, I viewed the site. The first article discussed the spiritual feelings the author experienced during a walk in the forest. Another discussed the spiritual connection he felt with other humans as a result of an exercise in a seminar.
All of the other articles repeated the same themes. Spirituality, according to these writers, was an experience of solitude, an emotion, or a sense of one’s similarity to other human beings, or even a sense of being part of nature.
I declined the invitation. I’m not quite sure what the site was about, but I know it wasn’t spirituality.
The site was another example of the trend to “dumb down” spirituality. Sort of like the political correctness trend. The more general and vague a concept is, the more people you can include in it, and the less meaning and power it has. Everyone subscribes to the concept of “freedom,” for example. But you see a considerable drop-off when you link it to “personal responsibility.”
Sixty to eighty percent of the children raised in the institutional church will leave the faith as adults. Isn’t it time thoughtful people asked some questions? Is the Institutional church Really the Church? Learn more.
Spirituality at the turn of the century has come to mean, in the common usage, almost anything the speaker wants it to mean. Have a warm feeling as the result of a laugh you shared with someone? Must be spiritual. Feel a little introspective while out on a sailboat? Gotta be a spiritual experience. Sense a bit of a connection with another human being? You must truly be spiritual soul mates.
Don’t misunderstand my position. These are all valid and valuable moments. However, while all these experiences, and others of similar nature, may be warm, pleasant, and even intuitive, they aren’t spiritual. To call them spiritual is to detract from that which really is spiritual, and to distract people from the search for the genuine article. Provide people with a cheap substitute, and you often knock them off the quest for the better original. The ice cream store won’t sell very much Haagan Dazs, for example, if they give away Dairy Queen.
So, if these kinds of experiences aren’t spiritual, what is? Let’s start at the source. There is a body of knowledge concerning things spiritual available to us. It’s contained in the Bible. The information concerning things spiritual in the Bible is really quite clear, consistent, and pretty simple. God is spirit. Anything having to do with God is spirit–ual.
God has, for His own reasons, lopped off and spread around parts of the “spiritual-ness” that originated with Him. There are, for example, totally spiritual beings. The Bible refers to them as angels and demons. In addition, God has imbued part of His spiritual-ness into human beings. There is a spiritual part of every human being. It’s that part of us that lives on after our physical body dies. It is partially characterized by its hunger for communication with its creator.
We can all relate to that. There are probably few human beings who haven’t had, in moments of solitude and reflection, a sense of the infinite, a hunger to contact God. That’s our spirit hungering for communication with its maker. It is a predictable, naturally occurring event. We are all some part spiritual. That part longs for completion by communion with its maker, in the same way that a male instinctively searches for a female that will complement and complete him, and vice-versa. One of the most natural things in the world is to search for God. That’s spiritual.
So, spiritual has to do with our search for communion with God. We grow spiritually when we move toward that relationship with our maker, or more intimate with Him. Anything else, all the other prescriptions for spiritual growth, miss the mark and detract our spirits from their instinctive destination.
Let’s use this understanding and apply it to some commonly considered “spiritual” moments. For example, when we experience a feeling of connectedness to other human beings, that’s not spiritual. Dogs, chimpanzees, and porpoises recognize a similarity to others of their species as well. That’s just one member of a species recognizing another. However, when we experience a hunger for or communication with God, that is spiritual.
You feel a bond with another person – you are somehow mystically drawn to that person. Is that spiritual? No. In a world with billions of people, it’s only natural that some are going to rub you the wrong way, and with some you are going to feel an affinity. That’s just natural. It’s not spiritual.
On a solitary hike into the mountains, you stop for a rest at a scenic place and are awed by the grandeur of what you see. Is that spiritual? Could be. The physical beauty and the feeling it inspires are natural – not spiritual. But, if that beauty and those emotions causes you to reflect on the nature of God and your place in His scheme, or perhaps to offer a short prayer, then that part of the experience is spiritual.
Here’s another. You go to the local church and half-heartedly go along with the worship rituals. You sort of mouth the words to the songs in a voice no one else can hear. You listen to part of the prayers and kind of follow along with the messages from the pulpit. Surely that must be spiritual. It depends. If you are doing these things out of habit or because of your interest in being seen by other people, then, of course, it is not spiritual. It has nothing to do with communion with God. If, however, you are striving, through these actions, to commune with God, to learn about Him and his interest in you, then yes, these are spiritual.
What’s the point of all this? If you want to grow spiritually, you must search for communication with God. If you want to work on the “spiritual side of you,” it must be somehow connected with God. You must find Him, and your spirit must intermingle with His. Any event which in some way moves you closer to God is spiritual. If it leads you in other directions, it is not.
So, if you want to develop the “spiritual side“ of you, don’t think that yoga, Zen, herbal concoctions, crystals, pyramids, and past-life regression support groups and their like will help. They may be fun, interesting, and good for you in other ways, but they are not spiritual.
Search to commune with God. One of the themes expressed throughout the Bible is this: If you seek God, He will reveal himself to you. That promise is repeated over and over. Moses recorded it in the earliest days of the Bible when he said, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) Solomon, King David, and many of the prophets repeated the same promise. Jesus repeated it in slightly different words, during the famous Sermon on the Mount: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Too many people spend their whole lives in a quest for spiritual fulfillment and never meet God. Too often it’s because they have been deluded with false ideas of what “spiritual” really is. They, like the refrain from the song, “Look for love in all the wrong places.”