It's Hard to be Spiritual When You Don't Know What the Word Means!
Spirituality - it's a "slippery" word.
Hard to define...
What I think I am saying with this word is not necessarily what you are understanding when you hear the word. It is easy to be "lost in translation" when it comes to spirituality.
Words are funny, beautiful, messy things.
It was many years ago when I first heard that Eskimoes have over 100 words for snow. Since snow is a constant feature of Eskimo life, they need a rich vocabularly to talk about what is most constant and most central to their way of life.
When Becky and I moved up to the Syracuse area, we learned two new words that were not a part of our south-central Pennsylvania vocabularly: "white out" and "lake effect." I also remember driving up Interstate 81 when the snow plow were getting ready for the first storm of the winter (I think it was in early October!). I wondered, "Golly gee, why do those trucks have such big snow plows on the front?"
About the same time, I heard something similar about the word - camel - for those who live in North Africa. Since camels are an important part of life in that part of the world, they have something like 40 words for camel. I have one word for camel - CAMEL. Okay, maybe two words BadCamel. (althouth the one below seems pretty happy...)
We don't have a well developed vocabularly for this idea. Maybe that is why there are so many different, diverse, at times at-odds-with-one-another definitions!
Spirituality is the way of understanding and way of practice of being in relationship with God.
Christianty, of course, must immediately nuance "in relationship with God" with things like:
(1) friendship, intimacy, love and so on
(2) and we also must speak more clearly about God and name God as the Triune Father, Son and Spirit and speak even more carefully about Christ, the Son of God.
So a slighty expanded definition of Christian spirituality is:
The way of understanding and practice of being in intimate friendship with the Triune God through Jesus Christ.
For this is not just a relationship of friendship and intimacy. It is always a TRANSFORMATIVE relationship. So, how about this definition:
Christian spirituality is one's total way of being in a transforming friendship with the Triune God through Jesus Christ.
We are gettig closer. But I think something important is still missing. Actually two things, but one at a time. What is first missing is any sense of purpose, of "telos" or "end."
For if nothing else, Jesus, in the famous passage where he names his disciple/servants as friends, he goes on to tell them they are his friends who are called to bear much fruit that lasts to the glory of the Father (see John 15:1-17). And among his final words to these missional friends are the words of John 20:21: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
Christian spirituality is one's total way of being in a transforming friendship with and the missional service of the Triune God through Jesus Christ, all to the glory of God.
What this means for spirituality is therefore:
Spirituality is an Intimate Relationship
Spirituality is a Transforming Relationship
Spirituality is a Purposeful Relationship (missional and glorifying)
And that is what you and I are invited to every single day of our lives, and in fact, every single hour of each day.
So - - - what do you think of this description of spirituality? Does this describe your journey with Christ? The longings of your heart? The structure and content of your daily living?
There is really only a few more really important questions? Like:
How does such a relationship emerge and grow strong?
And what is my part in this relationship?
But they are for other posts.
May this be a day of intimate, transformative, missional, God glorifying spirituality for you.
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International