Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7
Words like “spiritual” and “spirituality” are really hard to define. They’re like the Milky Way…really big, fuzzy around the edges, and seemingly out of reach. But I think we’ve often made it all far more complicated than it needs to be.
“Spiritual” means being filled with the Spirit of God. Remember the creation story in Genesis? God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, but Adam didn’t become a living being until God breathed his breath, his Spirit, into Adam. In the original Hebrew language of that story the word for breath and Spirit are the same. To be “spiritual” is to be filled with the Spirit or breath of God. And since every living thing is filled with that breath of God, every living thing is spiritual.
Spiritual growth, then, is becoming more and more aware of that breath or Spirit of God in us. Spiritual growth is an awakening to the reality that God is alive in us, always present. Spiritual growth is becoming more and more conscious of the reality that God breathes us to life each day, and that God is at work in and through our lives. Let me say that again: Spiritual growth is an awakening to the reality that God is alive in us, breathing us to life each day, at work in and through our lives. That can still be a little hard to grasp, so let me give you a metaphor that might help us to get a better handle on this notion of spiritual growth.
In the last few years I’ve started to have ringing in my ears. It was probably caused by listening to too much 70’s progressive rock music way too loud in headphones when I was a teen. While it’s constant, I don’t always hear it. I become aware of it when things around me are quiet. And I can also hear it if intentionally focus on it, mentally pushing away other distractions. If I wanted to, I could practice being mindful of that constant ringing, and if I did that, I would become aware of it far more often.
That’s not unlike spiritual growth. God’s Spirit is as constant in your life as that ringing in my ears. God’s Spirit is always there. Always. But we’re not always aware of it. We get distracted by life. It takes getting quiet and focusing to become more fully aware of the constant presence of God’s Spirit. And if we wanted to, we could practice being mindful of the Spirit’s constant presence. And if we did that we would sense the Spirit’s presence far more often. That’s what spiritual practices are all about. They help to awaken us to the Spirit’s presence and work in us and through us.
Being spiritual is a gift. Growing spiritually is a journey we get to take. Spiritual practices are the path we follow.
Want to learn more about spiritual practices. Check out our website here. Pick a practice and take a next stop on your journey!
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN