From Religion to Spirituality
In my last post I said that in this one I’d deal with the question of how to learn to spot God in all the places where God is (which of course is everywhere). If I could boil it down to one simple thing, it would be that we need to move from religion to spirituality. I’m not talking about the fairly empty-headed spirituality we often see nowadays, which is basically that a person believes in something beyond him/herself and has squishy feelings about it. Such people’s spiritual reading often consists mostly of Khilal Gibran, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and Wayne Dyer. They will often even feel contemptuous towards traditional religions. That’s not what I mean when I say we need to move from religion to spirituality. Without entirely discounting what the men above have to say (on the contrary, I think Christians have a great deal more to learn from these men than most like to admit, but avoid them out of fear), I’m talking about something different.
I am not talking about junking Christianity and going rogue and doing your own thing. One sign that something is real is that it has a form, and so traditional religions are identified by their outward forms. Finding one’s place within a form (a “church”) and living in community with them, is important. What I’m talking about is a shift in mindset, that moves one’s basic dependence away from the form and into the realm of faith — that is the move from religion to spirituality. If you’re familiar with Christian scripture, you might consider this, in the Apostle Paul’s words, moving away from milk and onto solid food. Here are questions you can ask that will help you make the move from religion to spirituality.
As you’re listening to a sermon or a teaching, ask
How do I connect with God through this?
Is this teaching actually making it sound like God is unreachable or distant or not interested in me until I get my act together? (that’s what religion often does)
How does this message or lesson help me see truths about myself that are difficult to see or that I’d prefer not to see?
How does this teaching expand my understanding of God and myself?
How does it draw me into mystery? (That’s what spirituality does, always!)
Does this teaching claim to answer more questions than it asks?
Does it help me and inspire me to love bigger and deeper, or does it help me find excuses to hate?
Does it use scripture to illuminate the paths others have taken on their search for God, or does it use scripture to beat people over the head and offer a one-size fits all approach to finding God?
Does it open my mind or close it, enlarge my world or shrink it, challenge my prejudices or confirm them, draw me into mystery or comfort me with false certainty?
Does it seem geared towards inviting people in, or making sure I know clearly who’s out?
As you make this shift, you start to see God everywhere. You also realize, ironically, that the cherished religion you grew up with, as it was teaching you essential things about God and faith, was also the very thing that was keeping you from seeing God everywhere. It molded you, intentionally or otherwise, to only be able to see God within the confines of that particular form. At a certain point, you will always view this as being “radical,” or “sold out to Jesus,” or some other euphemism for shrinking God down and stuffing him into a lamp so he only comes out when you rub it.
This is how you learn to see God in all the places where he is. It happens as you come to a clear-eyed certainty of God in YOU, which happens inevitably as you move from religion to spirituality. As God grows in you, you will see God growing in the world. That’s a promise.
There’s one more incredibly important way to come to see God in everything. I have posted a few times about it before. In my next post I’ll link to some of those others, and comment briefly.