3 min. to read.
It’s not unusual to hear some practice or program billed as the next thing that will supercharge your spiritual life.
Use this new small group curriculum. It will take you deep as you “do life together.” Take this insightful new personality inventory. You’ll really understand how God made you so that you can live more effectively. Join this new church that’s doing great things in the community.
We want a guaranteed path. When someone enthusiastically recommends a new practice or program, it can intrigue us. After all, we want to grow spiritually, right?
Careful. This desire to supercharge our spiritual growth can come at a cost.
None of these things are bad in themselves. If you’re going to meet with a group of people to have spiritual conversations, a curriculum can offer a sense of direction. Understanding better how you relate to the world is incredibly useful. Being a part of a healthy church is better than many alternatives.
So what’s the cost? A new practice or program can substitute for real spiritual living.
When you order that new book, or study up on some area of theology, get more involved in your church, it feels like you’ve checked the box. You joined a gym for your health. You’re eating better for your energy level. You’ve taken a parenting class to improve your relationship with your kids. You’re used to taking practical steps to manage different parts of your life. Why wouldn’t spirituality be any different?
Spirituality isn’t an item on your to-do list.
That mindset is the problem. Your spiritual life is not a component to you can bolt on or an aspect you can measure. It is not a side job or a hobby. It’s your whole life. These practices and programs could be constructive if you are seeking God and learning to be aware of Christ’s presence through the Spirit. They might be just what you need for your present season. Or not.
If you’re still trying to bandaid over untended wounds, or prove your value to the world around you, or demonstrate that you’re a good person, or acting out of some sense of obligation—maybe to your mom, or a pastor, or even God—these practices and programs are going to cost you.
If, for example, you use spiritual activities as a substitute for therapy when you need therapy, you’re just going to keep “bleeding out” on people.
If you use spiritual activities as a substitute for reflection and meditation, you’ll find your inner life getting more and more shallow.
If you use spiritual activities as a medium of exchange, “doing for God” so that God will “do for you,” you’re going to discover with great sadness that the spiritual life is not transactional.
We pursue these things because we want to connect more with God. Yet, we can twist any good thing into self-justification. When we do that, God quite graciously steps aside so we can pursue our self-salvation project.
One of the easiest ways to hide from God is in a life overfull of religious programs and practices. Don’t do that, OK?