Retreat - Finding a Healthy Spirituality

“What is the state of your soul?” There is always a little moment on retreat when I think, “Is this really what I need, to be asked about my soul?” It is not as bad as the “Who wounded you?” kind of therapy question, but it still gives me pause. Body scans and quiet time to journal and pray can feel a little soft for me.

I prefer to run in desert heat and punch a heavy boxing bag. Honestly, a lot of my survival as a priest has been predicated on my time in the wilderness and physical work.

As followers of Jesus, we have to realize that being born from above, as spiritually alive people, we have to grow up spiritually, and that means asking questions about the state of our internal being. It also means prayer and journaling and the quiet stuff.

The quiet stuff. We live in a world that is increasingly materialistic, a real accomplishment after the 1980’s. And we live in a world that is returning to spiritualistic, a throwback to the Romantic and Victorian periods. We may not go to seances and palm readers, but they are all out there to be had, and movies and television explore the spiritual primarily as something to be feared. None of it is quiet, and none of it feels healthy.

How do we find a healthy spirituality? You know already that you should be reading the Bible and spending time in prayer. But, do you know how to do that?

After church on Sundays, we are going to have mini-classes in basic practices of the faith this summer. Last week we talked about the stance of the Christian in silent awareness of God’s presence.

“Stop striving and know that I am God” is how the New American Standard Bible translates Psalm 46:10. Just be still. Be silent.

As a natural mystic I can say that is easy and practical. As a husband, dad, and full time minister I can say, “Good luck with that.” But what I want to tell you is how to begin. Little prayers are the fruits and vegetables of the spiritual life.

Just make a practice of stopping and being still for ten to fifteen seconds at a time, before you get out of the car, before you go into a room of people, or when you first sit down at your desk or table. Before you begin anything, just ask God to be present and thank God for what lies ahead, or ask for help.

In making a practice of quick but persistent prayers, you will move toward praying without ceasing and become more aware of your own soul at the same time. This awareness is life-giving, but also inconvenient.

We discover how much of our time and therefore our life is being wasted, misdirected, or just plain out of touch. Then you may find yourself slipping off to a retreat time or a journal to figure out the answer to the question we started with. “What is the state of your soul?”

It is the part of you that is going with you after you leave everything else behind. Are you building a better portfolio than a self? Are you able to offer a better financial or personal offering to your Creator?

Now is the moment to begin. Just now. Be quiet and tell God.

+daniel