What I’ve discovered about practicing the spiritual disciplines is that they are a lot like riding on the back of my husband’s motorcycle. (Stay with me here.)
The reason I love riding is because all of my senses are engaged. I not only see everything around me clear and up close (even the road kill…yuk!) but I feel the coolness of the glacier on my skin and the sun warming my legs, I hear the cows mooing, I smell the fields of onion or peppermint. In a car, at best, the only senses engaged is my sight (and it’s usually distracted with what’s going on in the car, and hearing (again, amid the clash of many sounds). But on the back of a motorcycle, I am fully engaged. All of my senses are on “high alert.” It’s on the back of a motorcycle I feel most alive.
That’s what the spiritual disciplines do when authentically pursued. They engage our souls far beyond the superficiality of our days ever could.
I enter into silence to calm my chattering and anxious mind, to connect with God more deeply. In silence I become aware of those inner dynamics that I seek to avoid by keeping myself so noisy and busy. There was a quiet center that forms in me—a place of stillness which allows me to let go of my own efforts to fix and solve and make progress in my spiritual life where I can see things more clearly, know God’s love on a deep, experiential level, and sense his moving in my life.
In solitude I become attentive to the longings of my soul that may otherwise go unnoticed in the hurriedness of my day. Without the need to manage or manipulate my response, I can give God my undivided attention fully to God; to speak to him, to intently listen to him, to ponder his words deep in my heart. Solitude creates an intentional space, unafforded in the rush of daily life, for a transformational encounter with God.
In scripture reading I linger with the Word, bringing my whole self to come to the text with openness, vulnerability, curiosity, and wonder. No longer content with reading mere words on a page that have no meaningful connection to my life, by engaging my heart through pondering and reflecting, I began to meet God in the text.
In worship, when am fully present, I encounter God in ways that cannot be explained and yet mark me for life.
Living in community with other people carries its own set of disciplines if I am to live gracefully with other people. In laughing together, weeping, learning, teaching, celebrating, forgiving, accepting help and sacrificial living and in admitting and owning my own brokenness with others, I discover it is I who is healed and I experience the restorative and redemptive presence of Jesus.
Through these kinds of spiritual practices, in incrementally, and in virtually immeasurable ways, I begin to cultivate a life with God; a life that is not lived on the surface of things. I begin to let go of the “death grip” I have on “maintaining a vital relationship with God” in which I am in control. This long, slow work of formation, is not about how I can make life “work” better but how I can, on a continual basis stay engaged and available to the on-going work of God in my life.
For I am most alive is when I am most engaged.