Plugging the holes in our spiritualities

A friend texted me recently about a deeply frustrating conversation he’d had with a client earlier in the day. His language was colorful.

Workplace frustrations are a common experience of pretty much everyone who has a workplace to go to and co-workers to work with. This is nothing new. And yet there is a sense among most of us who struggle in the workplace that things shouldn’t be this way and that we shouldn’t respond in the ways we do.

I asked my friend if his spirituality covers conversations like the one he’d just had. And he said, “No.”

I love his honesty. And I love that he followed that up by saying he has a long list of holes in his spirituality.

If we’re as honest as he is, we’ll admit to having a long list of holes in our spiritualities — everyday experiences that aren’t covered by the spiritualities we practice, be it prayer, yoga, centering practices, meditation, therapy, exercise, or whatever else there is out there that we do.

There are things that we simply react to that don’t tap into the depth of who we are.

Do I have a spirituality that provides guidance as I deal with strain in relationships with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others? Giving in to people and cutting off people who treat us poorly are not spiritually mature responses and yet we resort to these extremes so often.

Do I have a spirituality of pain and personal tragedy? So many of us act out or bottle up when confronted with personal tragedy because we don’t have a spirituality adequate to the pain we’re suffering.

Do I have a spirituality of bodies that enables me to live well with the body I have in a culture of deep rejection of bodies? Living in Bend, Oregon, which has a culture of fitness and outdoor activity that seems to value bodies, I see rampant dissatisfaction with how fat or strong or flexible or athletic people’s bodies are.

And the spiritual holes continue. Do I have a spiritual framework that provides for the following?

A spirituality of work that moves toward meaning and purpose in what I do without getting lost in the got-to necessities of earning a living.

A spirituality of leisure and play that uses recreation to help me be “re-created” instead of simply entertained.

A spirituality of food and drink that takes joy in every taste while not giving in to indulgence.

A spirituality of money which enables me to happily live with what I’ve got, live with what I don’t have, and share with others.

A spirituality of creation that connects me with the non-human world around me without devaluing humans.

A spirituality of sex that is less about technique and personal pleasure and more about intimacy and procreation.

A spirituality of singleness and of marriage which isn’t determined by which state I’m in at the time but speaks to it, helping me to deal with both the richness and poverty of it (since both are “for richer and for poorer” states).

A spirituality of need, where I come to terms with the reality that I don’t have the resources to make due — none of us ever being truly self-sufficient — so that I can live a received life.

A spirituality of generosity that sees and hears the needs of others and moves toward sharing with them in ways that are helpful and not hurtful to either them or me.

A spirituality of technology that neither relies on technology and future advances to save me and the world nor rejects technology as unspiritual and evil.

A spirituality of health and fitness that lives well with my body but doesn’t obsess with what’s wrong and how to fix it.

A spirituality of science and education that values the life of the mind without reducing life to logic and reason (as if any of us really wants to be Mr. Spock).

A spirituality of emotions that enables me to feel deeply and well, knowing why I feel the way I do, without getting lost in my feelings and the feelings of others.

A spirituality of hope that doesn’t turn a blind eye to all that’s wrong in the world and yet sees evidence for real hope in the actions of God in the past and present, with a view to his promised future actions.

A spirituality of death that doesn’t ignore or deny death while seeking to live meaningfully and to die graciously.

A spirituality of the tongue that communicates clearly without engaging in slander or any other forms of poisonous speech.

A spirituality of faith that enables me to connect with God and is comfortable with mystery without trying to invent my own God to suit my own desires.

A spirituality of community in our culture of increasing isolation that connects me with others in real relationships, where each person finds themselves valued and needed and loved, including me.

A spirituality of mass media that enables me to participate in a connected world without losing my sense of perspective and of place.

Looking at myself, I find holes in my spirituality in each of these areas. And yet I find that biblical faith speaks to and provides for a robust spirituality in each of them.

This is where I turn to the book of Psalms.

In all of the Bible, the book of Psalms is the central place we go to have our spiritualities shaped. As a collection of prayers, worship liturgies, and wise sayings, it’s the one book of the Bible that encourages us to read, engage, and then improvise.

We don’t just read a prayer in the Psalms and then stop. We are to continue on with our own praying, extending the psalmist’s prayer with words from our own circumstance.

Of course, the Psalms are but one of 66 books in the Bible and we ought to draw our spirituality from all 66, but the Psalms uniquely call us to pray and worship and reflect — three essential practices to a robust spirituality. We draw the content of a biblical spirituality from the whole of the Bible, but we learn the inner life of a biblical spirituality from these 150 ancient poems.

I admit that I’m not big on poetry. I wish I were, but I’m not. Because of that, the Psalms challenge me. But the spiritual imagination they offer is well worth the effort they ask for.

Even better than merely plugging the holes we find in our spiritualities, the Psalms plug the holes while forming a holistic, all-encompassing spirituality. And that’s what I’m really after.

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