Friday, August 05, 2011

Blessed are the poor in spirit...

This past Monday, I started a class called Spirituality and Recovery. It is looking at the meaning of spirituality in the context of twelve step traditions. The class has challenged my thinking in a lot of ways, and I believe for the better.

One thought that has been very helpful to me comes from a book called Soul Repair, cowritten by one of my professors, Dale Ryan. He looks at Jesus's words in Matthew 5:3 which says,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
I think Dr. Ryan's reflections on this verse are both true and comforting. He says:
"That statement does not match the instincts and expectations nurtured in us by our toxic spirituality, but it appears to be true. Our spiritual poverty is, in the eyes of God, an opportunity for blessing and not an occasion for judgment, shame or rejection."
These last few days, I've been able to see with more clarity that I really don't have to have it all together for God to love me. When my time in the Word is dry or non-existent, when my prayer life is in a similar state, and when I don't experience God's nearness...that really is okay.

For much of my spiritual life, I have been in performance mode. In high school, being a good Christian meant not cussing and being really nice to people. In college, I learned to base by standing with God on how much time I spent in the Word and how much Scripture I memorized (even though I "knew" and "believed" that that wasn't true). After college, I felt burnt out and have experienced a low level of guilt about my spiritual state for the last six years, thinking I'm not where I should be.

I should clarify that I don't want to give up right beliefs and helpful practices because they have been tainted with performance-based thinking. It hasn't been all bad. I've experienced God's grace in profound ways over the years, through the very things that were tainted with a performance based mentality. It's just that I'm starting to realize the grace and love of God in my spiritual poverty. Not just when I know my sin and am broken over it, but even when I'm too hardened to care.

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