Is there a difference?
If so, what are the differences?
Are there similarities?
If so, what are they?
I love church retreats. Don't you? The camaraderie, the wonderful late night chats. Laughing, singing around a fire. Early morning walks through the woods to pray alone, or together. And the inspirational speakers that force me to ask myself good questions about life with God. I love church retreats. I come home rejuvenated and more ready to face the day in day out life. Well, that is until I pull the suitcases out of the car, walk into the front door and find what destruction has been left in the wake of the life that has gone on without me.
I even love silent retreats that are just alone with me and God. Do you?
Both of these bring me to experience God at intimate levels. They create a yearning to remain in that place. Usually, they happen once a year and I in the past have been known to ride the wave for a good long time. But, like waves do. After a certain amount of time the excitement crashes, loses power, and basically rolls over the sands of life little more than a wave pool. Like I said, in my past, I chortled and kicked in the salty brine as I walked through the house and the chaos that the darling cherubs left.
Sad to say, so my life in my past saw ebb and flow in spiritual experience upon spiritual experience.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not against retreats. We as a body of believers together need them. They are important for community, important for fellowship, important in our growth.
Especially, silent ones — alone. Bible, journal, pen, silence. Oh, the things that God has shown me. I encourage you to take them regularly.
But, these spiritual experiences are laced with false expectations. We have some idea that these Experiences will give us a Spirituality, a Depth. They won't.
Why? Here are only five of several reasons:
1. They lack discipline of the soul.
2. They are filled with emotion.
3. They usually amount to a short time frame. We commit a day, a weekend, a week. I've been known to commit an afternoon.
4. And the hardest to honestly grapple with. They are usually self-gratifying. If man's chief end is to glorify God, a spiritual experience often falls sadly short.
5. In point of fact. Spiritual Experiences can leave me depleted instead of filled up. How many times did I return from a Women's Retreat and collapse in the bed from the lack of sleep? I can honestly say my patience with my three children tended to be a bit jarring for a few weeks afterward until I came back to that place of physical normality. Did I exhibit any signs of spiritual awakening, or change to those around me after my return? Satan wrecks havoc on an exhausted soul.
Spirituality has little to do with a spiritual experience.
Spirituality has to do with the day in and day out of our Soul-Life. It is in the secret crevices of our heart and mind. It is deep under that surface where no one sees. Spirituality, or the lack there of, makes us who we are. How we respond to life and how we run to Him behind closed doors in the midst of struggle and joys tell us more about our spirituality than does being a Sunday Christian, or a cookie-cutter believer.
Spirituality is not surface. God is the only one that sees me in that place of spiritual depth or the lack of it. Do I live the same way when I am alone as I do when I am with others? Do I talk to Him knowing He is there all the time? Do I worship? Do I meditate on Him? Do I rejoice? Do I enjoy spending time alone with Him?
Spirituality drives a life in a certain direction. Toward God. No matter what. Always toward God. The fake it till you make it never works in Spirituality. Granted there are steps to deepening our walk. Granted they are wonderful for sanctification. But those, when faked, are fateful. The depth comes from the being with Him. The depth of the Soul-Life is hidden.
But, the depth of the Soul-Life is displayed.
If you have ever met someone with a deep Spirituality you know it. They change your perspective on life.
Catherine was the mother of my divorce counselor. Her husband had been a lawyer. In the 1950s Catherine and her young lawyer husband had just begun a new life in Dallas with their four young boys. As life would have it, Catherine's husband died suddenly leaving her alone, jobless, with his school debt and little hope for a good income.
Catherine was instrumental in setting up and running a large church's children's program. However, the salary was sub-par. She struggled. Late '50s early '60s, making ends meet as a single-mother of four was not easy.
But Catherine was well into her late 70s and 80s when I knew her. Her children were grown, they had made lives of their own. They continued to meet back at 'Mom's' house on Sundays. But, Catherine was alone. However, she was never lonely. Her eyes danced in the relationship that she walked with God. She was a wise and loving woman. There was a childlike expectation in each of our times together. She loved talking and sharing about what God was doing in her life. She encouraged me to listen. She encouraged me to take courage. She encouraged me to give my all to Christ. Catherine Q. heard me and I heard her. Catherine, standing under 5' was one of God's quiet spiritual giants.
I was walking down the road of single parenting at that time. I had just gotten my degree with three kids nipping at my knees. I had fears and concerns about raising them alone. I asked her one day, "Catherine, how did you raise such wonderful men all by yourself?"
Cocking her silver topped head to the side, she slid those cornflower blue eyes toward the heavens and almost giggled through the wise-aged-wrinkles. "On my knees. I raised them on my knees."
That my dear friend is Spirituality in the Soul-Life depth.
Are we on our knees? Are we humble enough to fall to our knees when we hear Him whisper in our ear?
My prayer for us all is that we become less about the Experience and more about the Soul-Life-Depth.
Because He IS the I AM, i am
God has more to share with us. Consider reading the bible to find nuggets for living life well and wonderfully.
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Until next week on Monday at some time...
Thanks for meeting me here today.
See you then.
Robyn & Biff Cox
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Robyn Rochelle Cox
WHOSE AM I?