Good evening. It is 8:05 p.m.
I took this picture (above) today with my phone while my son and I were out running a few errands. We walked by this patch of grass, and pushing through was this little flower. So much hope and faith in such a tiny thing.
We endured four feet of snow, torrential rains, and hurricane-strength winds in the last four weeks. Yet, there is always the greatest signs of hope for recovery and everlasting love in the smallest of measures.
A tiny, yellow flower amidst blades of grass tinted with early-spring green. . . .I shall never have any reason to lose faith again.
My good friend Cara responded this morning to my post written a few days ago about “religious” vs. “spiritual.” She made some strong points, and I’m glad she took the time to share them. In brief, she noted the connotations associated with each term, and I agree that traditions are tied to “religious,” whereas “spiritual” suggests a more personal journey or experience (you can read the post and the comments here).
I think there is a difference between a religious christian and a spiritual christian; the former follows a literal interpretation of christian dogma without thinking and the latter views it all as literature/philosophy and interprets its meaning for himself.
If I were to apply that definition alone to my journey, I would certainly say that I am more of a spiritual Christian than a religious one. But isn’t it possible to be both “religious” and “spiritual” at the same time? Can’t we blend the two in our personal journeys? I know Cara wasn’t saying that it had to be black and white, and maybe that’s where I want to focus for just a moment.
Cara refers to the extreme connotations associated with “religious,” which includes being judgmental. We need to do something about that. I see it in nearly every conversation I have with people about religion and spirituality. Heck, I fought it for so many years myself. We don’t want to come across as being judgmental, and we don’t want others thinking that we are “extreme” or trying to “convert” them to our “side.” So we keep quiet. We become closet Christians, afraid of being aligned with the Judgmentals.
How do we change that? How do we remove the stigma of being judgmental if we are to be proud of our religious faith? When I worked at an orthodox Jewish school about 10 years ago, I was absolutely blessed to work with several Rabbis who were gentle, loving, and not worried about what others thought. They were not concerned about converting me, judging me, or having pity on me. They embraced me without any of these things, and I cherished their respect. I learned a great deal from them, things I could have never learned if there was judgment.
I think we can change that by being proud of our religious and spiritual foundation, just like the Rabbis were, without “threatening” others with attempts to convert or be saved. We can change that by living strong, by loving fully, and without judgment.
Earlier tonight, Amy turned to me and said, “Why do you think you aren’t tempted to stray from your vegan diet this time?” I told her that I just made up my mind to do it. I didn’t “hope” for this time to be better or different; instead, I just decided that the time had come to stop searching and start living. I don’t judge other people’s eating habits, but many people have come to me and noticed that something’s different. I’m happier, better rested, more patient, and less stressed. That’s what we need to do with our religion and our spirituality.
We need to Start Loving who we are, and Start Living a life without expecting anybody else to live as we have chosen.
I know I’ve talked about it before, but the first time I came to Christ, in July 1988, it was because of the way my housemate looked and acted after a revival. There was no judgment, no intimidation. Tim walked confidently in God’s light, and I wanted that. I wanted to stop the struggle, the fight, the search.
And now, nearly 22 years later, I can finally say with confidence:
I hope you all have a good beginning to the week. May you feel the confidence to walk with love and provide kindness along the way, to all you see.