Is there anything I can do to make myself spiritual?
(Anthony de Mello)
Over the past year, I have written about various spiritual exercises (see the links below) that have been practiced by believers through the ages. These articles were not intended to produce guilt or to insinuate that doing them is the secret key or requirement for spirituality. Rather, like the story above suggests, spiritual disciplines are important for they make space in our busy lives, awakening us to the Presence who is active and living and constantly inviting us to "become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)
The Spiritual Disciplines (and there are many more besides the ones I have written about) not only train and discipline us for love and good works, they provide nourishment and delight for our hungry souls. As the Psalmist proclaimed, so we, too, can come to enjoy the rich feast that God provides for our souls.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night. (Psalm 63:5-6)
While spiritual practices such as centering prayer, silence, and hospitality can strengthen our spirit and provide food for our souls, the reality is most of us can profit from having a "Rule of Life" to keep us regular and accountable. Having such a "rule" can hold us accountable in either avoiding the spiritual disciplines or overindulging. The key is balance that is enhanced by a graciously ordered "rule." In Marjorie Thompson's excellent book, "Soul Feast," she states:
Athletes, musicians, writers, scientists, and others progress in their fields because they are well-disciplined people. Unfortunately, there is the tendency to think that in matters of faith we should pray, meditate, and engage in other spiritual disciplines only when we feel like it.
As this year and series of articles comes to a close, I want to encourage you to write your own "Rule of Life" for the coming year, using the suggestions below as a guide.
- Plan a few hours (or even a day) away from home in order to discern your "Rule of Life" for the coming year.
- Spend an ample amount of time in silence, Lectio Divina, and prayer. A few suggested passages for reflection are Psalm 63, Matthew 5:3-12, and 2 Peter 1:3-11.
- Reflect on and write down your honest evaluation of how well you practiced the spiritual disciplines this past year. You might want to ask, which spiritual practice energized you the most? Which one did you find enticing but couldn't seem to get around to doing? Which one(s) repel or scared you?
- There is nothing wrong with exercising in ways that feel comfortable to you. However, seek to discern why some spiritual practices resonate with you and why others do not.
- An important question to ask is, in what area of my life do I believe God wants me to grow? After identifying this, spend some reflecting on what practice(s) might make room for growth.
- Consider and write down what exercises you want to commit to for this year. This is not to limit you or make you feel "stuck." Rather, listing the handful of spiritual practices that you want to commit to can encourage you to stay regular and disciplined in your walk with the Lord.
- Write down your "Rule". (Some have found it helpful to organize one's "Rule" by plans for the day, week, and month, quarter, and year.
- After you write your "Rule," (remembering that "less is often more"), be sure to share your plan with a trusted friend or spiritual guide. You might ask this person, based on what you know about my personality, stage in life, and surroundings, how feasible and advisable do you believe this rule is?"