Her words surprised me as something few Christians find themselves trying to do. I'm reading a wonderful simple devotional called Letters by a Modern Mystic by the missionary to the Moros (a Filipino Muslim people group) Frank C. Laubach and his modernization of the ancient practicing of the presence of God (a la Brother Lawrence) has led me to want to do the same thing. I do, by the way, HIGHLY recommend Laubach's short book. It's a jewel, perfect for slipping into your purse and whipping out during long lines at the grocery store. He has helped me want to bring Jesus into every moment of my day. Laubach puts it like this,
What right have I or any other person to change the name of these people from Muslim to Christian, unless I lead them to a life fuller of God than they have now? My job here is not to go to the town plaza and make proselytes, it is to live wrapped in God, trembling to His thoughts, burning with His passion. And, my loved one, that is the best gift you can give to your own town (p 13).
So I ask you to weigh in on how you would define a spiritual person. I find that in defining "spirituality" I want to include things like the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Jesus over this broken, ugly world. Everyone can talk about God in their lives, but how many have the power to break old habits, experience shalom-like peace, know the long path of long-suffering? I cannot find these in my own life apart from Jesus.
How would you define spirituality? How do you think others define spirituality?
As Dale and I work on our first book together, Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk, we've been thinking about different ways to talk about the God we love and how he became flesh and dwelt among us. We realize that most people enjoy talking about their spiritual journey, if you can ask the conversational questions and if you do most of the listening.
Last week I was making a necklace with a young woman in a local jewelry shop. We began a conversation that started when she asked if I knew about an old TV show and when I said I didn't I explained,
"I was raised in a very conservative Christian home, no TV," I said.
"Wait, you didn't even have a TV? Did you have a telephone?" she asked.
"We didn't even have a telephone, we were out in the sticks. I got left out of so many things." We commiserated, but also shared about how much we valued the push to be more imaginative with our playtime. We talked about her family, why her mom pushed the family to go to church right after her little sister was born.
"Why then?" I asked.
"Now I realized it was because their marriage was hurting, I think she wanted us to have, you know, a moral foundation." She said. I took mental notes of how this is what most people believe God and the church offer--lots of moralistic rules.
"Were you glad for that?" I asked.
"Yeah, I mean it kept me from being as bad as I could of been." We started talking more deeply about what she did and what she could have done, the conversation becoming more personal, details that are part of her personal story. As I kept asking questions, she openly told me about how once the pastor's son was forbidden from dating her because she wasn't good enough for him.
I raised my eyebrows.
"I couldn't believe it!" She said,"I sat listening to this guy every week in church and I thought, what a creep. Such a hypocrite! So since then I've pretty much kissed the church goodbye."
"I know what you mean," I said, "Don't get me wrong, I love God and I just can't get enough of Jesus, he's wonderful, but I'm very angry with how people use God to abuse other people. There's a name for that," I told her. "It's called spiritual abuse. My husband has endured more spiritual abuse at the hands of people claiming to speak for God than anyone I know. But, he still loves Jesus. It's really amazing to me."
She was listening closely. She shared more about the little darts thrown at her by religions people. I said, "That kind of stuff leaves a mark, doesn't it?!"
Our conversation moved to her sister, her current life, our necklace projects. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask her how she has reconnected with God, but I would have had to force an awkward moment to make it happen. I look forward to asking her, next time I visit.
If you've had any spiritual conversations in the last few months, I'd love to hear about new ways you've shared how Jesus is good news. I maintain that he offers the world the most powerful solution to every evil dart from the enemy of our souls. But how we communicate that is as varied as we are.
Let's hear some conversational tips!