What Is

What Is

I believe the most spiritual things we do are the least spiritual. It isn’t the amount of great inspirational books we consume, or the amount of prayer circles in which we engage that most effectively develop our spiritual eyes. It is when we engage in the most ordinary things in life that we learn to see God.

My spiritual life on this day consisted of giving sips of water to my wife who can no longer hold a cup, can barely swallow, and doesn’t know for certain where she is. She asks the same question every thirty seconds because she doesn’t remember that she’s asked it. Delirious, disconnected, and demented we watch her slip away from us.

This is what dying looks like. It sucks with a loud noise! It isn’t graceful. It isn’t sweet. And it sure as hell isn’t pretty. Not the version I’m watching, anyway.

About a week and a half ago Tricia began slipping into long seasons of confusion, not eating, and not being able to feed herself. Her hands and arms are no longer much help as her MS has progressed upward. Her voice is very frail and her speech is slurred when she does attempt to speak. The painful shift in our reality culminated last week when she no longer recognized our daughter.

My point in sharing this entry isn’t to point out how challenging my life is. Nor is it to spin myself as some kind of hero. I’m not. I hate it and wish I were anywhere but here most days. Death’s waiting room is a crappy place to spend any time. The point of this entry is that our most spiritual place is right where we are. Taking up our cross is taking up our reality. This season is just about showing up and giving someone five spoonfuls of sweet potatoes and letting them ask us whether it is morning or night fifty times while we do it. My heart hopes that in those five bites of food she gets from me that she’s reminded that I love her and that I’m here.

What is it that has felt the least spiritual to you today and yet may be the very most spiritual? You may have only thrown a ball with your son, but you made a memory that will shape his life. You may have taken your daughter to the movie, but it impacted her because you gave her the gift of time. The conversation you had with your spouse between soccer games and the grocery store may have felt mundane to you but it meant the world to them. It is those things for which we live. Not the big ministry opportunity, or the great epiphany on the hillside with the guru. It is those five blinking spoonfuls of sweet potatoes that are exactly where God has us. Let’s not waste them and learn to see God in our reality.

Losing Our Way

“The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.”
Henri Nouwen

I’ve read about a time in the early church when Christians weren’t known as Christians but rather, The Followers of The Way. The Way as in, The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

The term resonated with me because it seemed to imply that faith was not passive or simply about getting our spiritual passport stamped as I’ve said before. It wasn’t just about whether or not one was going to heaven. There seemed to be something tangible about following The Way. It was an interactive demonstration of Jesus and a proactive, intentional, and applicable faith that changed the lives of those who were touched by these followers. It wasn’t a static, removed experience but rather one that impacted those in its path.

It left me wondering when Christianity went from being The Way to an “it”. When did being a follower of Jesus become reduced to joining a subculture, simply taking on a moral code that defined us, and checking off things on an offering envelope? When did we settle for an overly privatized and personalized “belief” as opposed to an interactive presentation to the world around us of who Christ is to us?

Naming myself as a Christian seems to be a little easier than defining myself as someone who follows a “way”. There is a vulnerability in others being able to observe from the outside whether my life as one who calls myself a Follower of The Way is congruent with that Way. Simply calling myself a Christian on the other hand doesn’t seem to require much of me these days. A Christian can be a lot of things. It can also not be a lot of things. A Follower of The Way, however seems to imply a more specific understanding in what the world around me can expect from me.

A Follower of The Way is going to exhibit peace making, show mercy to the poor, reach into the places where those who have no voice are ignored, and most of all, be a light in what can be a very dark world.

Following The Way implies a counting of costs. As I think of simply “becoming a Christian” it sounds a bit like I have simply changed my political party affiliation. A Democrat is an “it”. A Republican is an “it”. A Christian seems to have become an “it”. A Follower of The Way however opens up the lid to many questions, implications, and curiosity regarding what I’m about. It offers a compass by which I can align myself as it calls me into something instead of out of it. It implies a calling as opposed to simply being aligned with a certain ideology. It puts into perspective that I am a part of something bigger than myself and am one among many while the term “a” Christian can imply something singular and isolated, at least on the surface.

I’m going to give more thought to how I identify myself with The Way and examine how it challenges the things that I take seriously in my life and the lives of those around me.

As absurd as it sounds to say, simply being called a Christian is feeling a bit generic.