“Can I ask you a question?”
It came over text. I didn’t see it for a while. I have a bad habit of walking away from my phone.
But when I saw it, I replied.
“Sure. What’s up?”
I should say here that it wasn’t a close friend, but someone I know casually. In other words, getting a text from her wasn’t weird, but it was hardly a regular occurrence.
“You’re a preacher, right?”
I used my standard line: “That’s what the piece of paper on the wall says.”
There was a pause of a few minutes.
“That’s what I want to talk to you about. That sort of ‘not taking it serious’ thing you do. You don’t act very spiritual”.
It was my turn to pause. If she needed me to be “Pastor Hugh,” I wanted to be that for her. But if she just wanted to bust my chops because I said “shit” on Facebook, I didn’t really have time for that.
“Is that a question?”
Her: Maybe. Like, even though you act like you don’t, you do take it seriously, don’t you?
Ahhh. Here we are. I didn’t fit her paradigm of what a spiritual person looked like.
I scheduled a time to grab some coffee with her, and we talked for about an hour.
Here is an abbreviated version of what I said.
I told her that while I understood what she meant, I just don’t think in those terms. Like, deciding that this is spiritual, and this isn’t.
There isn’t spiritual work and secular work. There aren’t spiritual people and not spiritual people. There isn’t spiritual music and not spiritual music. And there isn’t a spiritual life and a not spiritual life.
There is just the sacred and the desecrated. That’s it. Those are the only two categories my worldview permits.
It’s all supposed to be holy. It all matters.
So yes, I take it all seriously. I take it very, very seriously.
I’m just not interested in pretending to be something I’m not, I told her. I’m the kind of guy who says “shit.” I’m not the kind of guy who tries to turn every conversation to be about God. Besides, if everything is holy, it’s all about God anyway.
In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard says,
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
I think about that a lot. That there is no such thing as a spiritual life – there is just whatever we are doing at any given minute. As Dillard advises, there are practices one can engage in to catch those moments so that we capture them and thus form a pattern, both blurred and powerful. And for me, looking for the beauty that underlies everything is one of those practices. Loudly proclaiming my spiritual allegiance is not.
So, I’m not a guy who is going to say, “Ain’t God Good!” when my car gets hit in the parking lot. But I am the guy who will notice the sunlight refracting through the cracks in the windshield as I wait on the tow truck. And I believe God is in those cracks, too.
And that is my spiritual life.
One thought on “The Spiritual Life”
I really liked your description of “the spiritual life.” I think that is very similar to my point of view. Yes, I produce a 10-page newsletter for my church every month. It’s not for pay. And it’s not because the newsletter induces me to think more about religious points of view. It’s because it has been a way to keep communications open during the difficult time of the pandemic and it has succeeded in helping me to stay connected to my church friends and also has expanded my personal viewpoints on religion.
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