AUTHOR: Bill Dogterom| Professor of Pastoral Ministries, Chair of Religion
The legal scholar in Luke 10 synthesizes the way to live this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says acting out this three directional love – for God, for Self, for Neighbor – is to already be living the life of the age to come! It is not believing right first – but loving right first. Eternal life, then, is not just future – it is now!
This suggests to me that the spiritual life is necessarily about the whole person – our social interactions, our ways of thinking and processing information towards knowledge, our feelings in response to life as it happens, our bodies as the platform of encounter with God and pretty much everything else – as well as our sense of being connected to Someone beyond all of those things. To reduce the spiritual life to our common understanding of prayers, and worship, and Bible study is to miss the point entirely. “Everything is Spiritual.”
In fact, notice how whole person spirituality redefines our understanding of prayer or worship – they now become part of our 24/7/365life. As important as prayers are at sacred times and in sacred places, they are but the platform for a life that is prayer without ceasing. As important as worship in gathered community is, it is but the foundation for a whole life lived in response to the mercies of God with everything offered up as the sacrifice of life. Rather than an isolated religious activity or practice irrelevant to the way we live, Bible study now becomes fuel for the daily journey – and we can celebrate with the Psalmist the wonder of the gift we have received in the “way of the Lord.”
So, when we think about the Spiritual Life – we dare not just think about what happens in church, or in our private devotions, or on retreats, or at conventions. The Spiritual Life is Whole Life. In fact, the Hebrew concept of shalom means exactly that – a tuned up life, life as it was designed to be.
So that means that every aspect of our being – physical, social, mental, emotional, spiritual – thrives when aligned with the love of God, the environment in which we are built to live.
Think of your soul as a house with five windows. Most of our houses will have one or two of the windows open to the gentle breeze of God’s love – and that will bring life to the whole house and to the soul’s relationship with God.
If your primary window is spiritual your soul will be refreshed in formal times and places of prayer and worship. A chapel or sanctuary will often be a place of meeting between you and God. You will have a sense of His Presence as you kneel at an altar, or worship with the gathered community.
But if your primary window is physical, you will probably best meet with God on a run around the track, or in vigorous exercise. The gym or pool or bike will be your place of meeting. Conversation with God and worship will flow as you move.
On the other hand, if your primary window is emotional, worship and prayer and strong sense of encounter with God will often happen most naturally in a place of great natural beauty, or while listening to music with lots of space in it, or while looking at great art or architecture.
The social window will be most open to the breeze of love when sitting with a soul friend and talking together about the journey. The sharing of ideas and dreams and hopes will quickly become shared prayer and worship and you will find yourself leaving that moment soaring on the wings of joy.
If you come most fully alive when hunting for a new idea or while plowing through a dense well written argument, your primary window is probably intellectual. Your conversation with God will likely arise out of a new idea encountered, or as a result of an old idea expressed in a new way. So you will need to make time to read and think your way through a work of spiritual theology, or a solid commentary on scripture.
It is worthwhile to consider which of these five windows are primary to you. Everyone has all five windows – but the wind bringing life and refreshment to our souls and vibrancy in our life in Christ will likely enter primarily through a couple of them. So, make sure you are regularly making time to open those windows!
Stand in the reality of God’s love for you – and let the wind blow! As you do, faith – the Reality in which you stand – will make you whole.
Resources for further engagement
- Spiritual – Opening to God written by Thomas Green
- Physical – Daily engagement of your physical self (breath prayers, running routes around VU, daily stretches)
- Emotional – Surrender to Love written by David Benner. Abba’s Child written by Brennan Manning. Listen to Atlas: Year One by Sleeping at Last
- Social- Soul Talk written by Larry Crabb. Find a friend you can begin to have intentional conversations about your journey
- Intellectual – Podcasts. Streams of Living Water written by Richard Foster