Practical Spirituality

Spirituality must be practical. It sounds so common sense and yet how often do people end up feeling distanced from it, as if it is impractical or inapplicable to their everyday life? Dorthee Solle and Fubert Steffensky are quoted from Not Just Yes and Amen: Christians with a Cause, as saying “We can neither deceive God nor impose something on him. We can only slowly forget God, and that would be terrible since then we would slowly be forgetting ourselves as well.” (Bass, 68) To avoid this circumstance we must take practical steps to make sure the spiritual is part of our everyday; that it is part of what we do, how we do it and ultimately who we are.

First of these steps is to make sure that the things we do are life giving. Biblically, this is a theme that runs like a vein through all the scriptures, to give life to others and ourselves. This includes caring for and respecting our body as well as the body of others. It can also be useful in discerning when to say yes and when to say no to something as opposed to defaulting to an answer without any affording it any consideration. One of the places where we as a society are experiencing a deficit in this area the most is in hospitality. “It is tragically evident in homelessness and widespread hostility to immigrants.” (Bass, 3) In the most basic of forms, this means that we make sure that where possible, we always take into consideration not just charity but also empowerment and justice.

Second is to make sure that in times of change, we are not alone, that we are in community. Again, evidence of this struggle can currently be seen in the abundant self-help section of any store. “Dislocated and disconnected, we suppose that self-help offers our best hope. Lacking shared beliefs, we conclude that our private preferences are the closest we can come to the truth of matters.” (Bass, 4) But this is not the path of the Christian. Although we may retreat and spend time alone with God, we find context for what we hear from God and ourselves within community. Practically speaking, we see some of this direction given in Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Lastly but just as critically, is to practice; to put into action ones faith. “Practices, therefore, have practical purposes: to heal, to shape communities, to discern. Oddly, however, they are not treasured only for their outcomes. Just taking a full and earnest part in them is somehow good in itself, even when purposes that are visible to the human eye are not achieved.” (Bass, 7) All those earlier steps are critical at this juncture (and should continue) because we need our practices to always be life giving. We need to make sure that we are operating not alone but in truth and finally, that we are practicing together, in community when possible. This allows us to not only keep one another on track and accountable but to be hospitable and invitational to others who want to join our community.

Referenced: Dorothy Bass, Practicing Our Faith Second Ed.

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