“What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”
– William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
One of the most common questions I’ve had since taking up this post has gone along the lines of “Passionate Spirituality? Isn’t that all about mindfulness and meditation?” Someone else asked me whether it was “contemplative stuff with candles”. The most entertaining was a comment I read online, along the lines of “I tried it once. It wasn’t for me”.
The idea that spirituality is something we do as a one-off made me smile (like dyeing our hair purple or running a marathon – bucket list checked!). However, at the same time the fact that it is clearly so misunderstood that it can be reduced to a “thing you tried once” made me really sad. Passionate Spirituality should be an integral way of life for the effective, spirit-filled Christian
I think the issue is often with the word “spirituality”. For some people, it conjures up ideas of Eastern philosophy, zen-like attitudes and yoga. For others, it directs their thoughts to the resurgence of interest in New Age spiritualities – crystals, Gaia philosophy and inner-goddesses. Others do see it as a Christian concept, but as a discrete branch within Christianity that takes a narrow view of contemplative prayer or ancient monastic traditions only followed by the holiest of people.
From the start, I want to make it clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with contemplative prayer, meditation on scripture, lighting candles or any other form of expression that a person’s faith is drawn to. There is a rich and symbolic history behind all of these things and the opportunities they present to “be still and know” God’s presence are incredibly valuable…
…but these are still only a tiny selection of the ways in which we can have a passionate spirituality at work in our lives. So, let’s strip it right back and work out what it’s all about.
Let’s start by using different terminology. If “spirituality” has connotations for you that are negative, confusing or just plain vague, let’s talk about “discipleship” instead. The origins for the word are well-known to be focussed on learning from or being a student of someone, but the Latin word for disciple also had close ties to the word “Capulus”, meaning “to grasp” or “take hold of” (commonly used to refer to the handle of a sword). So discipleship could be seen as grasping learning and understanding about God. Passionate Discipleship, then, is about being eager and enthusiastic in doing so.
Passionate Discipleship actively seeks opportunities to draw close to God. Passionate Discipleship seizes time, space and activity in which to grow in knowledge and understanding of the nature of God and the person of his Son, Jesus. Those first disciples lived their lives in the presence of Jesus. They travelled with him, ate with him, talked and laughed with him and then grieved with him. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we get to do the same – looking for God’s hand in every aspect of our lives and taking every day (not just Sundays!) as an opportunity to grow in our faith and live it out practically through prayer, worship and our relationship with others.
“Spirituality” and “discipleship” merely describe the journey each of us are embarking on to follow the path Jesus has set and become transformed into his likeness through the time we spend learning from him. Moses was physically transformed by the time he spent in God’s presence. Paul had his whole outlook on life turned upside down. Encountering God fully, whatever label we put on it, should be our greatest goal.
So, that’s all clear then…? Well, not quite…
In the second instalment of this blog, we will be exploring the concept of “passion” in relation to our Christian faith and considering how a combination of commitment to following Jesus and conviction to do it whole-heartedly can lead us on our way to being the followers he has called us to be.
Until next time…