Why Spiritual Disciplines?

I am currently taking a class called “Christian Spirituality”, in which we both are going to explore the theology behind spirituality and define it, and also practice spirituality, by choosing a daily, weekly habit and another spiritual discipline to do on an occasional basis. So, just to prepare you, expect to hear more about spiritual disciplines and how my practices are turning out. But why do we engage in spiritual practices? They can seem so ancient and so out of touch with reality. And let’s be honest, some of us just aren’t very good at observing the sabbath, tithing, fasting, or praying the daily office, or praying period for that matter. They seem so tedious . . . more of a nuisance than anything that only make us perturbed at God for making us keep them and not actually leading us into a deeper, fuller experience of God in our daily lives. And the results from these disciplines are so sporadic. Some days God will feel closer than your own skin when engaging in spiritual disciplines. The next, it’s simply another thing to check off the list. Every once again, we will have a break through, a glimmer of light peeking through the clouds and we realize the importance of such practices even if we cannot put our finger on it. These are the moments when we find rest in our disciplines – rest from our busyness, rest from our roommates or spouses or kids, rest from our responsibilities. We rest in the arms of God. Spiritual disciplines are divine appointments with God, placing ourselves in the direct path of God’s runaway grace train. They don’t make us holier than those who choose to partake. Rather, I like to think of it as quite the contrary. Personally, I engage in spiritual disciplines because of my own wretchedness. I do not participate in them to receive another gold star from my pastor, let alone God. I do them because I need to. I need God’s grace and any chance I have to expose myself to it, I will. Fyodor Dostoyevsky touches on this idea in his book The Brothers Karamazov. Somebody asks a monk why they became a monk. They responded by saying something to the effect that they were unable to live as a Christian in the secular world and the last resort was to completely separate themselves from the world. This is the role spiritual disciplines play for me. Without them, I would drown in the myriad of obligations and relationships in my life. This is how I survive.

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