Lately I’ve been thinking about Christian spirituality. The word “spiritual” has such mystic connotations to it. A commonplace motto among spiritualists is, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual”. What that means is that they believe in some kind of god, or force, or spiritual nature, but they don’t want to belong in a category of religion or doctrine. I get that. I used to be there. There was a time in my history when I looked into all kinds of new age spiritualism. What I found was an attempt to reach a place in my heart and mind where there is no suffering. I desired a nirvana of sorts where I could go to through various means. What I found was an empty room and a fleeting imposter of peace. I’m grateful for my Christian upbringing because the words of Christ were planted deep in my soul- “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”. The spiritual foundation I had been given gave me the courage to speak, out loud, to whatever it is that is beyond us as spiritual beings. Could I really communicate with God? When I finally did, the startling moment happened when He spoke back.
I always believed the Bible was a holy book; that it somehow contained the words of God. Having this belief in my grasp I opened it and began to read it. Something new began to take shape. The words of the psalmists and the words of the Apostles and Gospel-writers suddenly became my own story. I found myself crying out from the depths, from the miry pit. I found myself corrected by Paul for my lousy behavior and wayward thinking. I found myself desiring to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment for an inner healing I desperately longed for. Over time I understood that the God of the Bible was calling me to follow Him. Like the parable of the lost coin, I was being sought, and the seeker was drawing near. My heart was found-out. I was naked, ashamed, without excuse standing in my own folly before a God I always knew was there, but had never fully recognized. There was nowhere to run; I had been found. And as I waited for the lashing I expected for the utter contempt I had displayed my entire life toward this “seeking” God, this hound of Heaven, what I received was embrace. There was no judgment, there was no punishment, and there was no shame. I was caught up in a love unfathomable that saw me for who I was, and yet still poured out mercy, forgiveness, and FAVOR! Oh the favor! I remember it like it was yesterday, pacing the driveway where I lived on top of a hill in Bryson City NC up Jenkins Branch Rd. My spirituality became real that evening as I surrendered. The gates of my heart that held Jesus out could no longer hold. My defenses were exhausted and I beheld the grace of God in all of His glory. I wept. I sang. I didn’t walk an aisle or say a rehearsed or written prayer. I simply said, “I am yours! Show me the way to follow You”.
Strangely, I thought I had stumbled onto something new, as if my new found spirituality were divorced from anything that had yet been discovered in the history of mankind. My prayers, the “real-ness” of my conversations with God, the way I communed with the Holy Spirit in a seamless way throughout my days that summer were so incredibly novel to me, even though I had grown up in church. “Church! Maybe I should attend a church. They read the same Bible that I do!” Funny I was still holding onto that motto that I could be spiritual without belonging to a category. What I’ve found in church is a community of people like me who understand their own weaknesses and shortcomings. Church is a place where people together can encourage each other with their own stories of grace. Church is a place where with one voice through many we can say Jesus is God incarnate, sent to humanity to suffer for sin, to redeem His people, and to save to the uttermost those who trust in His work on the cross. I found that Christian spirituality finds traction when gathered together we can say “I am Yours!