Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spirituality: Performance or Condition

Is spirituality about a condition or about the performance? It's easy to "feel"--or rather appear--spiritual when we check off all those items (attributes) from our list. Attending church and Sunday School. Volunteering. Listening to Christian music. Wearing the Christian button. Praying for missionaries. Going overseas for missions. Giving money. The list goes. From chapter five of her book, Behind Those Eyes, Lisa says: "The point is not that Ms. Spirituality does these things, rather, why she does these things."

Do we mark our spirituality by our actions performed or our heart's condition? The world views spirituality from outside the heart and from what is seen in action. But, true spirituality cannot be "seen". Rather, it is revealed from what bursts forth from the heart. Lisa puts it beautifully: "The problem comes when our performance of these characteristics takes precedence over the actual condition of our hearts." This can be a very dangerous playground. We can get so consumed by doing this, that, and the other. Doing is fine but we must always focus on our being...what is at the heart of our being, what is the purpose of our being? Is it to do or to be? I want to be a Christian at heart and not do the Christian art.

I found it such a revelation that many times what was considered spiritual by the human eyes, Jesus Himself rebuked. Woah. That makes me want to really see what Jesus views as spiritual. I'm out to be pleasing to His eyes and not any human eyes.

So, what does society and the human eye say is spiritual? I've never liked that word. I don't really like to define or describe someone as spiritual. Is Sall-e Q a spiritual person? If she worships Buddha, isn't she spiritual? To be spiritual by the world's standards would mean to believe in the spirit world and a higher power...a door knob if you wish. To define true spirituality is to describe it in terms of a relationship with Christ...serving Him out of the mere act of serving and loving Him with no outward benefit from others.

So should we expect that we can become spiritual just by claiming Jesus as Savior? Well, it does take some "spiritual muscle". I love how James says it. Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 There has to be some walk behind the talk. Some doing behind the reading. Some giving (do) behind the receiving (read). We have to read and meditate on the Word. Do the basics but interpret the specifics for our lives by deep meditation. We are not all called to be missionaries. We are not all called to be worship leaders. We are not all called to be writers or organizers. To do that which we are not called, is to do that which is on the check off list. We are to do what He has called us to do collectively (loving, forgiving, serving, tithing, etc.) and then also individually called to do (preach, write, lead worship, missionaries).

The attributes of Ms. Spirituality aren't the goal but the means by which to reach the goal...true devotion to Christ. When we do all those items on our spirituality checklist, we are not being spiritual but with the right motives we will grow into the condition of spirituality. It won't be about the most we can check off for the sake of doing but rather it will just be the outpouring of our heart to serve, honor, and love Jesus. We must examine spirituality from a different angle. Lisa says: "She is looking at the ritualistic side of her faith, rather than the tangible expression of a deeply rooted love for God."

Lisa touched something in me when she spoke of how Moses was apprehensive and scared to do what God asked with leading the Israelites to the Promises Land. She says: "Though he trusted God, his flesh continued to pull him back to unbelief." Oh my, that is me. I can feel the conviction of God to believe in His power to heal and restore, to do the unthinkable, unlikely, and impossible things in my life. Yet, my flesh, says "How is it possible? What if this? What if that?" Those ugly, ugly doubts that make God work more to convince me of His truths. Moses conquered his fears and doubts and "...his desire to please God superseded his fears..."

If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully. Exodus 33:13 NLT

Listen to this. I love what Lisa says here: "Moses trusted God, but because of his insecurity in his own abilities, he was in need of reassurance from Him. Like a wise counselor, the Lord knew exactly what Moses needed to hear." That is so me. Sometimes I wonder if I've misread Him. I feel insecure in my ability to hear Him and to know His specific words spoken to my heart for my life. I need His reassurance. I keep coming back to the same convictions and beliefs about aspects of my life and what He's asking of me. So in that, I'm trusting--hoping--that to be God's reassurance. Is it possible to need reassurance for the reassurance He gives us? How many times can we re-ceive re-assurance on top of re-assurance?

Lisa mentioned the story of the bleeding woman from Luke 8:42-48. Oh, how I love this story for several reasons. I have referenced her faith in action and Jesus' response so many times in the last 16 months. Now, Lisa draws attention to her, asking why it was important for this woman to expose her vulnerabilities to Jesus and others. True healing comes from being vulnerable. The woman presented herself before the Lord, vulnerable and desperate for this condition that was perceived very unfavorably. She was revealing her "dirty" self and the shame she felt. She let go of her reputation and showed herself to the Almighty One who held the power she so desperately wanted and needed. And indeed, she received. Her faith healed her. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." Luke 8:48 I'm so glad she allowed herself to be vulnerable as I gleam so much truth and encouragement from this story of her exchanging her reputation and her condition for healing and power from Jesus.

This woman was spiritually transparent. She laid her soul before the Lord. Spiritual transparency freed her. It will free us. It allows us to be real with others and others to then be real with us. Nothing lasting comes from anything fake or less than genuine. Impersonating spirituality without embodying it is dangerous to our heart and spirit. Over time we could come to believe the impersonation and therefore no longer see our need for Christ. To impersonate spirituality also closes the door of opportunity to truly attain it (while still impersonating). We must remove the skin of impersonation before we can savor the fruit. (Think of a banana or orange. For some it may be as easy as peeling the banana for some it it takes more work like an orange or even more difficult like a delicious mango.) If we are pretending to be spiritual then there is no opportunity to learn what real spirituality is and to learn to grow into it. In addition, everyone (including ourselves) will think we've already attained that level of spirituality and therefore overlook us for that encounter to grow.

"Though we seek it, our lack of spiritual perfection may be the best thing in the world for us since it reminds us that we are absolutely nothing without Christ." I just love this statement of Lisa's. Isn't that just like our Lord that He once again uses our imperfection, even spiritual imperfection, for our good and His glory? What is better than a deepened reliance and dependency on Jesus? We are nothing without Him. We have nothing without Him. We can do nothing without Him. Praise Jesus He doesn't require or even ask us to be spiritually perfect.

May Lisa's final words in this chapter penetrate your heart like it did mine...or maybe I should say pricked my heart as it stung a little. "True spirituality is about the awesome power of God showing up in a person's life to the point that people around her notice a difference." Yes, indeed, a truly spiritual person exudes the Spirit of God. To be so is to exemplify all that God is within us. To be spiritual is to be of God. To look into the face of a truly spiritual person is to look into the face of God. I can assuredly say that to look into my face is to truly look into the face of God. I can only hope it will continue to grow me into that.

Lord, I want to trade my spiritual button for the overflow of Your presence spewing out of me. I want to have a heart conditioned for You and not a performance portrayed for others. Peel away any layers looking to trained thoughts of performance instead of looking solely to You.

Are you trading your reputation for repentance? Repentance means true freedom. Reputation means confinement to the perceptions of others...mere humans. May God always bring us to our knees placing our repentance on top of our reputation.

Won't you throw off your Christian t-shirt, and go with me to the Throne of Jesus?
Let us shed our spiritual coat and put on the armor of God.


Loving my Lord,

Check out Lelia's blog to see insights of others.

26 comments:

Lelia Chealey said...

There was so much here that jumped out at me Paula.

You seem to put so much thought into your posts before you just get on your computer & it shows. I love that about your writings.

Keep sharing what you learn sister. We are all just growing together.
love,
Lelia
Miss Alivia sends her love & kisses! :) Her latest question: What are breasts?
I was explaining the hundreds of ladies in pink tshirts we passed by on a cancer walk on Sunday.

Laura said...

There was this: "That is so me. Sometimes I wonder if I've misread Him. I feel insecure in my ability to hear Him and to know His specific words spoken to my heart for my life. I need His reassurance. I keep coming back to the same convictions and beliefs about aspects of my life and what He's asking of me. So in that, I'm trusting--hoping--that to be God's reassurance. Is it possible to need reassurance for the reassurance He gives us? How many times can we re-ceive re-assurance on top of re-assurance?"

Oh, how I relate to this one, Paula! Why don't I let HIm rule in me? Why always check and double check?

Girl, you so know me.

Cindy said...

"The woman presented herself before the Lord, vulnerable and desperate for this condition that was perceived very unfavorably. She was revealing her "dirty" self and the shame she felt. She let go of her reputation and showed herself to the Almighty One who held the power she so desperately wanted and needed. And indeed, she received. Her faith healed her."

That is what I have needed to do - present my broken self before the Lord.

Great post.

Karyn said...

Thanks for this blog; it's a great read. Karyn www.christiancupid.com/blog

Kim@Seasons of My Heart said...

I love what you said here:

Lord, I want to trade my spiritual button for the overflow of Your presence spewing out of me. I want to have a heart conditioned for You and not a performance portrayed for others. Peel away any layers looking to trained thoughts of performance instead of looking solely to You.

WOW...smack me in the face....great thoughts friend.

Abbasgirl said...

Great post. I once heard a sermon in which the question was posed are you busy working for God or are you devoted to God? I still ask myself - am I devoted or busy...

Naomi said...

Oh, my! This post was loaded with wonderful thoughts. I was taking notes all over again... Thank you for sharing them... Naomi

Sharon said...

This is a very spiritual filled post that you posted. I want to wear the armor always, It's not as heavy as we may think it is either.
The t-shirt is much heavier for sure. Always looking/seeking for his reassurance.

Have a Wonderful Wednesday

Tammy R said...

I hate the word "spiritual" because it can mean so many different things,just ask OPRAH.

You always give me alot to think about and I'm always come away blessed!

Natalie said...

It becomes a danger when we begin thinking we don't need Christ. To stay humbled reminds us that we are nothing without Him!

Amy said...

~Repentance means true freedom. Reputation means confinement to the perceptions of others...mere humans.~

This quote really jumped out at me. As you already know, we are going through a "transition" if you will, and this quote really explains well how Shannon and I both feel right now. We can only base our decisions on what Christ thinks of us and expects us to do in our lives and walks with Him....not what "others" expect.

And I also want and ask for more reassurance from God, and bless His heart, He is so patient with me.

Another very encouraging post, Paula.

God Bless,
Amy:)

HIS Daughter said...

You know, you are on my mind alot! I don't want to sound like a weird stalkerella..:-)...but I see you out there working in your yard and doing hard work and filling like crying.

I see it in other situations and I want you to know...you are real, Paula...you are real. Even if you were never before...you are definitely real now.

Honey you have been stripped of that Jesus t-shirt ages ago. You are enduring and perserving under trial. That's the real deal.

Blessings and praying alot,
Teri

Liz said...

My Christian T-shirt is off! LOL, see my post cleaning house, I think I threw them all away!
I look forward to reading your blog and again am not disappointed.

Tracy said...

Wow, powerful thoughts...thank you for reminding me I need to constantly keep my motivation in check!

Thank you also for challenging me to be like the woman with the issue of blood...to be completely vulnerable in showing my desperation for God...

Blessings,sweet friend.
Tracy

Joyfulsister said...

Hey Sis..
Please come over when *U* can I have 2 awards for *U*.

Hugz Lorie

Carol said...

Paula,

Have I told you how much I love your writting. Oh wow I read this twice, and it just resignated my thoughts. Your faith and the strength you get from Jesus just comes right off the screen and fills my heart with joy.

I'm with you girl, off goes the tshirt.

Love you lots friend,
Carol

On Purpose said...

Wow...you sharing your geniune heart is very encouraging, refreshing and much needed in todays world! Thank you!

JnL4God said...

Hi my friend Just wanted you to know I am thinking of you. Hugs and Blessings.
Lynn

From the Heart said...

"To define true spirituality is to describe it in terms of a relationship with Christ...serving Him out of the mere act of serving and loving Him with no outward benefit from others." That statement you made stood out to me.
I want to know Jesus as He really is and hear His still small voice that others hear. I do not want people to look at me but to look to the Father. A real eye opening post. Thanks.

After starting my blog I started praying, "Lord, don't let this become more important than You or the comments become more important than hearing from You." When I did a card ministry I would wake up in the mornings with words of a song or something that I felt God wanted me to use on the cards. After having surgery last year I was not hearing from Him and could not put the cards together anymore so I quit, but since starting the blog I am hearing from Him again. I could not do it within myself and I wanted the things I posted to reflect my Lord and King.
Thank you for your words of wisdom.
AliceE.

Lisa said...

Paula...
I can hear when I read this post how much God stirred in your heart this chapter, and I have just offered up a prayer of thanksgiving for what He is doing in your life. Your thoughts touched my heart, and I share your love of the Moses passage! Thank you for opening up your heart in this post.

Much love,
Lisa :)

Tonya said...

Hey there, Sweet Lady!

I wanted to say THANKS for the comments last week. I sure missed all of you while we were gone!

Okay, I won't keep you. I've got a week's worth of "catching up" to do.

I'm still praying that GOD WILL give you your heart's desire!

LOVE YOU!

Tonya said...

AAWW... I HEART YOU TOO, Paula!

I hope you're having a GREAT weekend!

Always praying! =-)

Melanie said...

Wow... yet another great post, Paula! So much truth in your words!

Cheri Bunch said...

My heart so identifies with your prayer. I am in agreement with you......totally.

Isn't it wonderful that He gives grace? So necessary for my imperfections!

I always think of when Peter cut off the man's ear. Jesus put it right back on....I am positive that He completely healed and left no scar. That is how the Lord covers for us! I so need His love to "cover a multitude of sins" and mistakes. What an amazing God we serve!

Nicole said...

Hi Paula! How are you? Any bites on your house yet? Email me sometime! Would love to hear from you!

Love,
Nicole

Edge of Design said...

Keep standing my friend and when you stand, stand strong in Him. :)