(This is the second of two posts on spiritual practices that combat superficiality. Check out the first post HERE.)
5. The practice of learning
“In times of change learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” -Eric Hoffer
I grew up very conservative. In my Christian circle, we had a saying. “The Bible said it. I believe it. That settles it.” It’s a catchy one-liner. I said it with conviction. But like a lot of other Christian jargon, it was more words than substance.
In reality, the Bible said what I wanted it to say.
The spiritual practice of learning is more than knowledge or intelligence. America is more educated today than any point in history. But much of our learning takes place inside our bubble and the knowledge we acquire only reinforces our way of thinking.
Learning as a spiritual practice is about constantly engaging new ideas and perspectives. It’s rooted in humility and refuses to arrive or have things figured out. Learners are empathetic. Their circle is wide and ever-expanding to include new people and new perspectives.
Learning as a spiritual discipline means not being afraid of new or different. It loves people more than belief systems.
Change or unexpected events don’t destroy learners. Learners are flexible and adaptable because their foundation is Love.
6. The practice of intimacy with God and creation
“People who avoid intimacy are always, and I mean always, imprisoned in a small or circular world.” -Richard Rohr
Intimacy is a desperately needed antidote to a society increasingly plagued with individualism. Intimacy is about drawing near and coming close. It requires vulnerability, allowing God and others to see who you really are, not who others think you are or who you want to be.
Intimacy is risky, inevitably leads to pain, and sweet baby Jesus is it hard. But without intimacy, you can’t know God. Without intimacy, you will never experience connection and communion.
Intimacy is the road to love.
Without intimacy, the only option is status quo and superficiality. People who avoid intimacy usually end up fearful, close-minded, and quite frankly, sucky to be around. Intimacy is transformative, and the ones who practice it are the ripe for changing the world.
7. The practice of remembering
“When we practice rituals, we are connecting more than the dots; we are connecting the past to the present and the present to the unknown future.” -Stephen W. Smith
You probably want to pass over this one. I get it. Remembering, and specifically establishing signposts (or rituals, if you prefer), is a lost art. We’re much more concerned with progress, right?
But if you study previous cultures, you realize ours is one of the few without intentional signposts reminding people where they came from and where they’re going.
In a culture of speed and progress, signposts come off as out-dated or meaningless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Signposts are clear markers ushering society from one stage to the next. They connect present generations with past and future ones. Without them, people miss the bigger picture. We miss the forest for the tree. Individualism is championed as maturity and earth care is labeled as liberalism.
The spiritual practice of remembering or signposting grounds us, connects us to previous and future generations, and gives meaning to the mundane.
9. The practice of being human
“God does not come to us beyond the flesh but in the flesh…” -Barbara Brown Taylor
“The Word became flesh.” This might be the most important statement, like ever. Unfortunately, too much Christian theology has focused on escaping the flesh, as if Jesus’ coming to earth was a special ops mission with one goal (to save humanity) and orders to get in and get out as fast as possible.
Richard Rohr says, “If it is any way antibody, it is never authentic Christianity.” He’s right, I believe.
God is found in the spaces where divine and flesh intersect, which is almost everywhere if you have eyes to see. There’s something good, and dare I say necessary, about messiness and disorder. The Word becomes flesh in a barn, of all places. And, on the heels of his arrival are screams of terror, as power-hungry King Herod orders the death of every child under two (Matt. 2:16). Now, if God doesn’t have some meaning for all this mess, if embracing our humanness doesn’t somehow mean embracing God, Christians have some ‘xplainin to do.
The only way to make sense of this, I believe, is to recognize God somehow shows up at the intersection of joy and pain. Messiness and chaos don’t equate with God’s absence. They’re a sign of his presence.
Practicing the Incarnation everyday means finding God in every moment, especially the present one. It means respecting your body. Paul says it’s a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). It means embracing chaos and disorder rather than spending our days praying God would take us from this world.
I pray these practices benefit your spiritual journey. If not, find some that do. Consistent disciplines build deep roots. And deep roots combat our culture’s great problem, superficiality.
We can live in a culture where speed reigns. We can honor progress without becoming its slave. But we must be intentional.
Grace and peace, friends.