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Being Spiritual in a Crazy Busy World

2011 March 3

So this post is part promotion and part reflection. The promotion part is to get the word out about a conference I will be a part of at the end of May – the 2011 Montreat Signature Conference. Held May 29- June 1 at the Montreat Conference Center near Ashville, NC, this year’s theme is “Being Spiritual in a Crazy Busy World.” The conference looks to be a refreshing as well as inspirational time of spiritual rest, reflection, and challenge.

The conferences invites attendees with the assertion – “You are called out of the chaos of your crazy busy, constantly moving, overextended lives to a place grounded in the imagination of God.” I was asked to lead workshops on everyday justice issues as part of the conference and I appreciate the opportunity because it reflects to me a valuing of the idea that in truth everything is spiritual. I think that truth is something that most of us intellectually affirm, but which often doesn’t get translated into our day to day reality. We so narrowly define what it means to be spiritual that we end up constantly feeling disconnected from God because we can’t sustainably live what we have defined the spiritual life to be.

We all have of course heard of the mountaintop experiences – moments of spiritual connectedness that generally come from times of retreat or focused devotion. I don’t deny that those are spiritual moments, but the reality of life is that we cannot live constantly in those moments. And if we expect all spirituality to mirror the intensity of the mountaintop, we will inevitably be disappointed and feel far from God. We blame ourselves, or our church, or our culture for our distraction and disconnectedness, but perhaps the real problem is our definition of spirituality.

We have come to see spirituality as something set apart from the mundane aspects of everyday life and so become frustrated when our lives seem to get in the way of connecting to God. But God is not found in just the moments of devotion or prayer, or in the communal gathering for liturgy, or in voices lifted up in song. Those are all great tools for helping us concentrate on God, but God is the God over all creation, not just the systems the church has developed. A crazy busy world isn’t the antithesis of spirituality; it is simply a setting where spirituality can be manifest. Grounding ourselves in the imagination of God and redefining spirituality to include all aspects of life is what I think is needed to help us get over our constant struggle of feeling spiritually disconnected.

Embracing spirituality in the whole of life means understanding that even the acts that make our life crazy busy are spiritual acts. Waking up in the morning, making breakfast, and getting the kids off to school are spiritual acts. Rushing from meeting to meeting and facing project deadlines are spiritual acts. We are spiritual people in relationship with a spiritual God; everything we do therefore is a spiritual act. What matters then is if we are living our everyday life in a way that moves us closer to God or further from God. When we choose our clothes, or commute to work, or interact with our kids are we becoming more Christ-like and caring about the things God cares about or not?

Rethinking spirituality as an every moment of the day sort of thing opens us up to having God work in our lives in out of the box sorts of ways and moves us beyond the unsustainable “mountaintop experience” mentality. Embracing that we are always connected to God though is both comforting and infinitely more challenging. Everything being spiritual means we can’t shove God aside to just Sundays, or believe that God doesn’t care about what we eat or how we vote. Everything means everything. Sure, we still need times of reflection, communal worship, and retreat from the ordinary in order to help us refocus, but when every action of every day becomes a choice for God, our spiritual lives will unavoidably be transformed.

So I look forward to this conference where we will explore how to both take the time for rest and reflection as a spiritual practice and how to learn to see the world not as the enemy of spirituality but as instead the very place where our spirituality is developed and lived. It should truly be a time to leave behind the old paradigm of our crazy busy lives (in more ways than one) and discover a sustainable spirituality.

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