Thursday, September 19, 2013

Opportunistic Spirituality

I use the word, spirituality, with frequency.  I am also aware that this word is tossed around in many different ways.  In fact, I do think that many of us use the word without being very clear what it means.  Sometimes, I think some folks want to use the word to say something like, “I’m religious, but not really into religion.”  Usually that means they are not part of an institutional form of religion.  For many, that simply means they gave up going to church or to the temple. 

When I use the word, spirituality, I am wanting to point to the “lived experience” aspect of religion.  Spirituality always begins with experience in my understanding.  For example, it is one thing to say, “I believe in God.”  It is quite another to say, “here is how I experience the God in Whom I believe.”  That is spirituality. 

It is for that reason I consider dealing with spirituality to be more difficult than dealing with religion.  Religion---at least, in the Christian sense---typically begins with doctrine or belief.  If one were to ask the common person on the street to define religion, I think most would begin by talking about what they believe. 

Doctrine and belief are mental.  They are rational ways to explain something about our universe.  It is not unusual to have to “make up our minds” about what we are going to believe.  And we can change what we believe.  However, if I change what I believe about God, for instance, that does not necessarily mean God changes.  God is still God; but if I have changed my belief, that means I have changed the way I view God---changed the way I talk about God. 

Spirituality, on the other hand, tells folks how I encounter and experience that God.  There are countless ways for me to be intentional in my hope to encounter and experience God.  Prayer and meditation would be two of the classic ways.  If I pray regularly, then probably my chances of experiencing God are enhanced.  The same goes for meditation.  By meditating regularly, I open myself and make myself available for God to be present in my experience. 

Intentionality is very good and I am all for it.  In fact, that is the most predictable way to become spiritual and to enhance one’s spirituality.  But there is another way to become spiritual.  The alternative way is to be aware of the unintended opportunities that come our way.  In effect, we become opportunistic (instead of intentional). 

If we become aware, we will realize opportunities come our way with some frequency.  Nature is one sure bet to offer us opportunities to experience the Holy One.  One only has to pay attention to the beauty of the autumn season.  Who do you think painted the natural landscape? 

Here I want to point out especially the role other people play as spiritual opportunities.  That reason that so many of us do not consider other people as opportunities to experience the Divinity is we simply do not expect that to be possible.  But think about it.  All the major religious traditions talk about God being active in the world.  What is to say part of the Divine activity does not frequently happen through other people with whom we come in contact? 

Be opportunistic.  Change the way you think God might be available to you this day in the lives and actions of others.  Who says the other person’s smile is not a glimpse of humor?  Who is to say the tender word is not a spiritual caress? 

And why choose to be that Divine vehicle yourself?  Incarnate the Spirit and become an opportunity for some friend to encounter and experience God this day.   

Participate in opportunistic spirituality.  Why wait? 

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