Spirituality: So Many Definitions
Spirituality is a topic many people might have difficulty defining. It is only a church thing? Is it greater concern with the soul than material possessions? (Oxford Dictionary) Is it the deepest values by which people live? (Wikipedia) Is it pondering ideas that take us beyond ourselves or is it the meaning of life? Is it all of these things and more? How do you achieve spiritual growth?
Today, many people talk about being spiritual rather than religious. Being religious to some has the meaning of following rules whereas spiritually is more self-directed pondering of the universe. What is the point of all of it?
Being more aware of what it is important in your life or what the purpose of your life is can be considered being spiritual. In the world of a Christian, spirituality most often means how one lives in response to Jesus and what his life, death, and resurrection mean to a believer.
Even longtime Christians can sometimes feel that their relationship with Christ has run dry or seems distant. We may at times feel that God is distant from us because of the trials of life we are experiencing. Loss, grief, and hurt can make us feel depleted spiritually. We feel alone. It is at these times we feel an increased need to grow spiritually. Therefore, we want to reignite the connection that brought us to a belief in Jesus.
But what do we do? How we recapture that sense of the presence of Jesus in our lives?
10 Steps to Spiritual Growth
In no particular order (except the first one), let’s take a look at 10 ways to grow spiritually
- Desire Change. The first step on any journey or time of growth is the commitment to wanting something different. If you are seeking to grow spiritually, then you are effectively saying you need a change. This is the biggest step. Therefore, recognizing the need to change and committing to it is the first step.
- Develop a Sense of Gratitude. Pick the 5 best parts of the day and write them down every night. These do not need to be big and some days you may feel there is nothing to be thankful for. I am tempted to suggest on those days, find 10. It may be small. You may find a new tube of toothpaste when you thought it was all out or your phone rang and it wasn’t a recorded telemarketer, but a friend. You may see the first signs of Spring or someone smiled at you in the grocery store. Whatever brought a bit of joy to your life, write it down.
- Spend Time in Nature. Today happens to be one of the most beautiful days of the year so far. 72 degrees, barely a cloud in the sky, a light breeze. What a glorious day to be outside. Even if the weather isn’t perfect spend some time outside. Our bodies need Vitamin D. Even though milk is fortified with it, nothing is like soaking up the sun to make some of your own. So enjoy this time spending time with God in creation. The beauty of nature is a gift from God. Embrace it! Enjoy it!
- Start Everyday with Prayer. As you wake up from what was hopefully a good night sleep, say a prayer of thanksgiving. Ask for guidance for your day. Remember the special people in your life before the Lord. (Similarly, pray before you sleep. Thank God for the good in your day.)
- Ask God to Make You a Blessing. This is one way to live beyond yourself. Often we spend so much time focusing on ourselves we lessen the importance of people around us. We miss out on connecting to others. We can strengthen our relationship with God by blessing others.
- Choose a Book of the Bible to Read and Study. There are many ways to go about reading the Bible. For example, you can begin at the beginning of Genesis and read straight through to Revelation. You may read through the New Testament and then the old. Or you may skip around from book to book. You may follow a lectionary. But choose a place to begin and read through that book. Read it again. Then, perhaps read it through out loud (in one sitting if it is relatively short). Study the context, the author, the recipients, the setting. Learn the history. Really dive in. Additionally, there are countless resources for studying every book of the Bible in-depth. If you would like some suggestions, please ask in the comments.
- Pause and Reflect. Next, take time to understand where you are in your spiritual journey. Look at where you were and how far you have come. Or recognize that you have gone in a direction that you regret. Then reset your sails for a better destination. Life is a journey and the spiritual life is not different. Making that decision and commitment is the start. Take time to note your progress. Confess your back sliding and recommit to move forward.
- Don’t Fear Mistakes. A commitment to grow spiritually is not one where you can expect perfect growth. Everyday events take their toll. Life is filled with challenges and everyone makes mistakes. Sometime our mistakes come from a desire to jump head first and dive into something and we are not yet ready. Sometimes we just really blow it with a loved one. The only way to not make mistakes is to stay stagnant and never grow. Now that is one mistake perhaps we should fear. As for the rest, move forward.
- Give Your Burdens to God. Oh, this is easier said than done. As a mom, I try to give my concerns about my kids to God. Although, I always seem to want to grab them back. One night I was worried about my son driving home late at night, and I realized that God loves my son more than I ever could. Seems incomprehensible to me sometimes, but God really does. We are taught to turn our worries over to God. Lay them at the foot of the cross. Trust God.
- Start Small. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was a deeply spiritual life. Start small. Do not over-commit. You do not need to read the Bible through in a week, pray for two hours a day, or fast every Tuesday and Thursday. And you especially do not need to do these things right away. Perhaps start with #2 and write in a gratitude journal. Then adopt another one of these suggestions. Then another. See your spiritual life become more enriching.
There are so many other ways to grow spiritually regardless of our age or situation. Please share your favorite ideas for growth. Let’s grow in love with God together.
Other articles of interest: 5 Steps on the Path to Growing Spiritually
There a number of books and website devoted to Spirituality and Aging. One I read while writing my thesis that addressed a number of topics was Winter Grace: Spirituality and Aging by Kathleen Fischer. It is filled with wisdom.