I’m traveling in OH visiting pastors and churches. Sometimes, not often, I eat a meal alone and found myself in that situation this past Saturday evening. I always have something to read with me and the server, probably in her late 20’s, made note of the copy of Christianity Today which I was flipping through.
When she brought my salad she said, “You must be a spiritual person. I am, too. I’m rediscovering my spiritual side and am becoming a very spiritual person.”
I replied, “That’s great!” Where are you involved in church?”
She was exasperated as she said, “Oh, I don’t go to church. I don’t think being spiritual really has anything to do with organized religion.”
“So, what are you doing to explore your ‘spiritual side?’” I asked.
“I grew up in church and never really understood how people could claim to be Christians on Sunday and then raise hell all the rest of the week! Now I’m studying meditation so I can re-awaken the real spiritual me. I think spirituality is very personal.”
I said, “I agree. Being spiritual is all about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The server looked at me for a moment and then said, “You’re not one of those Bible thumpers, are you? I don’t like your type! My spirituality is very private and has nothing to do with any God who has a bunch of rules.” And she walked away.
When she brought my meal she wouldn’t even make eye contact and the conversation was obviously over. What a shame. But the whole event made me think. What is it that makes a person spiritual?
Hundreds of books have been written on this topic and I’m reluctant to add anything to the great wisdom that has been shared by people whom I consider spiritual leaders. But I’m convinced that we’ve allowed this issue to become far more complicated than necessary.
Let’s face it, there’s a huge disparity between contemporary spiritualities and the spirituality that is derived exclusively from the Holy Spirit. There is virtually no way to move from Oprah’s so-called practical spirituality to Biblical spirituality.
Solid, Biblical, Christian spirituality always involves repentance – at the beginning, constantly in the middle, in all things. Repentance. It is a deep, soul-searching, humble confession of sin; the turning away from sinful ways, and a new, total dependence on God.
Spirituality is not a feeling or a technique or a system of beliefs, nor is it a quest for the sacred through artistic creativity and mystical experience. It’s not found in one’s own inner voice. It is a personal relationship with Jesus, the Christ. It is in and through Christ that we know both ourselves and God.
Spirituality is not about going to church and following a bunch of rules. My participation in a household of faith and the moral and ethical absolutes I claim flow out of my relationship with God. And so I recognize that I’m spiritual not because of what I do but because of Christ in me.
There are scores of people just like the server I met on Saturday in your community. As a Christ-follower, you have the indescribable privilege of modeling genuine spirituality right where you live. Look for the open conversations and begin the dialog. You can be sure that next time I’m in the area I’ll stop at that restaurant and look for that server.