What Does A Life of Spirituality Look Like?
I’ve always been a 5-year-plan kind ‘o gal. No doubt it’s closely connected to my desire to feel in control. I want to know what is happening right now, what’s supposed to happen tomorrow, and what is happening after that.
Like a good Christian growing up in the 90’s, the question facing me as I left high school was “What does God want you to do with your life?” I cringe now knowing I felt God must have one specific path for me to take and if I screwed it up I would be doomed for my remaining lifetime. I don’t even know what that means, but that was the feeling I got.
Don’t screw this up.
You’d better choose wisely.
So not only did I want to have a nice, big, long-term plan picked out, I wanted it to be God approved.
And I was pretty sure it wasn’t.
I was raised to think practically. What can you do around here that will pay the bills? The answers weren’t anything fancy for God. I think deep down inside I wanted to study religion, but it didn’t even occur to me that could lead to an actual job. Besides the momentum was set on either teaching or agriculture so those looked like my only options.
Frankly it’s great that I picked teaching. And I was quite sure God wanted me to be a teacher, but it didn’t feel very spiritual. I mean, the public school sector didn’t give a lot of room for talking about the benefits of prayer.
If only I had known then that God’s calling of me wasn’t limited to my job. God’s call to me stretched from His fulfillment of the law and my baptism, to His forgiveness and my redemption in one fell swoop. It began with Him and encompassed everything about me, and with Him it was complete.
If you’ve read my blog for long, you know that I get all geeked out when I get to talk about the doctrine of vocation. The knowledge of this thing brought so much together for me about how God structured our world and what He really has planned for each of us. It doesn’t look like the generic, dreamy way the Jeremiah 29:11 verse was used when it graced the covers of all my graduation cards. God’s plan for me isn’t a scrapbook of cute pictures of houses I should live in and snapshots of vacations he wants me to go on. It isn’t about me living happily ever after or becoming successful or overcoming every stumbling block put before me.
God’s plan for me is 1) that I am a saved, child of God. He called me out of the bondage of sin and Christ was crucified for me. And 2) Because I am called and forgiven, I can live life in the freedom of the Gospel.
But what does “living” mean as far as God is concerned? What are we to do with these forgiven lives no longer bearing the weight of the law?
Gene Veith writes “In the doctrine of vocation, spirituality is brought down to earth to transfigure our practical, everyday life.”
Social media seems to constantly tout various takes on “spirituality.” Years ago I knew I was suppose to be “spiritual,” but I felt only sinful and unfaithful. People would accuse me of being ‘spiritual,’ but I was sure I was coming up short.
After reading about Luther’s doctrine of vocation, I now believe a significant aspect of spirituality to be responding to the call to love our neighbor. We are only free to do this as we are able, because we are forgiven. Instead of spending all my time worrying about whether I’m living up to God’s standards (I cannot), I can worry about how to best serve my neighbor. And to find out how best to do that, I go back and check out the laws and direction God gives us in Scripture.
This isn’t normally how we define ‘spirituality.’ The world might consider spirituality something one does at a retreat or just at church. Spirituality brings to mind meditation, nature, and calm. I’d probably be more likely to identify someone who seems to know their Bible and talks about prayer a lot.
But Spirituality doesn’t necessarily look as we expect. It might look like my father-in-law helping a needy church member (and by ‘needy’ I mean high maintenance). It might look like a mom of 4 blocking out time for her family to have a meal together. Spirituality doesn’t necessarily reveal itself in a praise song or a moving prayer. It might be dragging yourself out of bed to work so you can pay the bills (living responsibly), or counting to 10 so you don’t say something to your spouse that you regret.
How are you serving your neighbor? The ones you live with, the ones you work with, the ones you see on the street? What will they need from you today? How can you allow them to serve you?
This is spirituality.
Does it happen apart from the Holy Spirit? Nope.
Will it be effective without God’s Word to guide us? Nope.
Does prayer change hearts and heal offenses and move us to say what needs said? YES.
THIS is spirituality. You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to be journaling. You don’t have to “feel” a certain way.
When we seek God through His Word we find out He desires for us to serve.
Whoever is in front of us.
Wherever we are.
THAT is a life of spirituality.