Untangling Our Spiritual Life

Yesterday I dropped something behind my computer, and when I went to retrieve it I noticed the unusually large tangle of wires and what not back there.  All of those wires, in some way, bring the power to the computer that make posting this article possible.  Then I started to think about our spiritual life and how intertwined the different parts of that life are.

On Sunday, I preached a sermon with the title “Forgive us our Trespasses.”  This is the first of a series I have planned on getting more serious about our spiritual life.  Future sermons will focus on finding a spiritual guide, regular confession, daily Scripture reading, prayer, and fasting.  All of these parts of our spiritual life sometimes get tangled in each other, and we need to find a way to untangle them.

Like those cables I mentioned before, all of the parts of our spiritual life bring power and the ability to strengthen our walk with the Lord.  Sometimes, however, they get so tangled we spend more time worrying about the outward appearance of it all and very short time on the inward journey.

The spiritual life is not about externals.  Don’t get me wrong doing things the right way is necessary, but we cannot spend more time worrying about how low I am bowing and less time on why we bow.  Recently I was part of a conversation about confession.  During the course of that discussion, it was revealed that some people were upset with a certain priest because he heard confessions sitting down.  I think we are missing the point of it all when we get so upset by something like this.  I asked the question, did God still forgive your sins and did you confess that you have been judgmental toward another person?  If not, you better get back to confession.  When we tangle things up this is what can happen, we lose sight of what is necessary.

The first step on the spiritual journey should be to keep the whole journey is perspective.  We need to have the goal in mind so we do not get lost along the way.  This is difficult for some, especially those of us who are converts to the Orthodox faith.  We want it all now and we do not wish to wait.  We become zealots for the faith, and in doing so we tend to make many mistakes and fall.  I am constantly trying to slow people down in their spiritual life.  Build a solid foundation before putting the roof on.  We have a life time to build the house.

So how do we accomplish all of this?  We start by understanding what the spiritual life is all about.  The biggest and hardest step in the spiritual life in acquiring a sense of inner silence.  It is only through this inner silence that we will hear the still small voice of God, but it is in that inner silence that we have to deal with all of the hurts, betrayals, and other junk we keep within.

In my sermon on Sunday, I mentioned that each of us has a place where we keep all life’s little bumps in the road.  All of the resentments, disappointments, hurt, etc. We keep them closed up so no one, including us, will be able to see them.  The most hurtful of these issues is kept way at the back behind a lifetime of experiences.  In trying to obtain inner silence, we have to unpack that area and deal with each and every one of those issues until the room is empty.  The secret is once we carry out an issue and deal with it we do not put it back in.  Oh we may move things around a little, but eventually we need to deal with everything in that area head on.

But we cannot go it alone, we need someone who can help us and help us along this path.  We need a person who we trust that we can honestly share those issues with and help us deal with them as they come to light.  Some will be hurtful to us and will take more time to deal with them others, but we have to plow through to deal with them all.  This is where the spiritual guide comes in.

I have written before about the image I like to use when discussing the spiritual guide.  I prefer the Celtic notion of the Anamcara or Soul Friend.  The Soul Friend is just that, a friend, someone who is on the journey with you to help you carry your burdens when you need help.  The Spiritual Guide is not a director that tells you to do this and do that, but a loving person who helps you achieve your full potential.  You have to do the work, the guide is there to help you when you want it but not to do the work for you.

Over the next few weeks, there will be more on the untangling of the spiritual life but for now consider finding a true spiritual guide to help you untangle the cords of your life.

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