Every six weeks or so when I see my friend, Tim, I get asked the question, “Hey, Jer, how’s your spirituality?” The neat thing is he’s not just making small talk, he’s sincerely interested in knowing how I’m doing spiritually and is willing to jump in and give me a boost if I need it.
The first time he asked me I was taken by surprise and didn’t know what to say, so I gave him an automatic, “Great, everything’s wonderful!” response. The next time I was a little better prepared and, fortunately for me, I was being truthful when I said, “Man, it couldn’t be better.” The third time he asked, I hesitated because, although I wanted to tell him everything was fantastic, I would have been lying. Instead, I gave him a tentative look and said, “Well, actually, I’ve been going through a little dry spell lately.” And then, true to form, he helped me talk through it and helped me get back on track.
Tim’s concern for not necessarily just my physical well being but, instead, for my spiritual health, is a good example of the type of friend I’ve made since becoming a Christian. I have been blessed with many friends just like him.
At some point a couple months ago I started thinking seriously about his question. “Why should I wait for him to ask me? Why not ask myself from time to time? And, if I take time for reflection and do a self-evaluation, how do I describe and qualify my spiritual life? What makes it great as opposed to being only mediocre or not good at all?”
First, I thought I needed to define Spirituality. So, I Googled the word hoping to find a dictionary but the first hit that came up was a link to the Student Wellness Center at Ohio State University (go figure?). Their definition of Spirituality started out like this, “Spirituality is not religion and is not even necessarily affiliated with religion.” I thought, “Hmm, the heck you say!” Obviously, this was not going to get me close to the spirit (pun intended) of what Tim was asking. Finally, in checking Webster’s dictionary, I found a suitable definition – “Spirituality: The sensitivity or attachment to religious values”. I thought, “Now, I can work with that!”.
The word “Sensitivity” lends itself towards how I feel about my religious values. Generally, from one day to the next, I feel grateful, excited and full of hope about my faith in God, my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Savior, and my desire to live life as He wants me to live – full of charity for, and service to, others. It feels good to acknowledge and accept His love, and to recognize and proclaim my love in return.
But, I have so-so days at times, too. These are when I feel overwhelmed trying to understand everything; feeling confounded that I can’t get the pieces to fit together, which causes me to doubt; and days when life simply gets in the way and keeps me from those precious prayer moments.
Then, there are the bad days: the days when I let my concupiscence get the upper hand; days when I let stress and aggravation cause me to feel less charitable than I ought to be and I don’t realize it until it is too late
The second part of the definition is, “Attachment to religious values”. Unlike the feelings related to sensitivity, “Attachment” conjures up the idea of putting that acceptance into action. Again, there seem to be different levels of qualification to this aspect.
The best days seem to include some element of showing kindness to others – there’s not much that feels better than that. I admit I feel pleased with myself when I go out of my way to help others. Same thing for sacrificing for others – there’s just something special about it. And then there’s prayer. The act of telling and showing Him my love, and accepting His love, definitely produces a spiritual high. I’ve noticed, too, the wonderful feeling, the positive self-affirmation, when I do something that appears to influence and lead others toward Christ. I feel like I’ve earned my pay for the day.
In business it’s often said, “Some days they pay me too much and others they don’t pay me nearly enough.” The same goes with spirituality, I think. There are days I just don’t earn the right to feel very spiritual. Days when I don’t act with love to others. Times when I take out frustrations either intentionally or unintentionally on others. And, worst of all, when I sin and I know I’m sinning but I do it anyway. I’m thankful this doesn’t happen often but when it does it feels devastating. When I look at those actions in retrospect, I know that Jesus is weeping for me.
When I became Catholic, many caring friends, Tim and others, cautioned me to take it easy, to accept a certain slowness to the learning process. Sometimes I just don’t want to go slow. But, I think they’re right. It’s easy to put the cart before the horse, as the saying goes, and get ahead of myself in trying to understand Christianity and trying to live it like a saint. I kind of feel like a newbie golfer who is just learning the game but gets frustrated because he can’t shoot par. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that even the pros don’t always shoot par.
During this exercise of examining my spirituality I’ve learned a few other things, too. I’ve found that when I pray, when I read the scriptures, study the bible, and associate with other men and women who do the same, I begin to understand what was in Jesus’ mind and I think I’m starting to think more like he did. My mind is becoming renewed. Instead of just existing in the flesh like I did for years, I have begun existing in Spirit, too. I think my mind has reached a higher level because of its connection with the Holy Spirit.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
I am so very grateful to all the people who have gently pushed me, pulled me, guided me, offered insight along the way, and waited at each way-point with open arms and a knowing smile. I appreciate friends like Tim, the guys in my bible study group, the men and women on the Christ Renews His Parish teams, and my family who care enough about me to ask about my spirituality, my walk with God. It’s heartening to know that, as I move ahead, you will be there for me. God bless you all.
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