“Didn’t you realize that you were God’s temple and that the spirit of God was living among you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16
The fundamental basis of Christian spirituality is, I believe, to be in tune with the Holy Spirit living within us. While there are many people who feel “spiritual” this is not the same as being in touch with the Holy Spirit. I am not trying to be critical of anyone who feels they are a spiritual person; I think we all should feel that way. After all, we all have a huge spiritual dimension to our being.
But I think the first misunderstanding we have when it comes to spirituality is that many of us believe that we initiate it. We have this understanding that we initiate our relationship with some higher power and decide for ourselves who or what that is. But the truth is that, it is God who is the initiator of our relationship with Him. It is God who seeks us first and it is not simply our decision to seek Him. Any decision we have made to pursue a relationship with God was put into our consciousness by the Holy Spirit- inviting us to pursue God. If we think about it, that is truly mind blowing. God wants a relationship with us. He invites us into His life and puts that invitation into our hearts and minds. So what we are really called to do in our spirituality is to recognize that God wants to be in a relationship with us and it is our decision through free will to respond or not to respond.
So the basis of being a “spiritual” person then is not simply a feeling of being “spiritual” as if there is something in us that we control. The basis of spirituality is really about recognizing and responding to the movements of God; that is, God’s Spirit within us!
This ability to understand the movement of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of our life takes first an openness to allow the Spirit to move in us and then a “practice” of recognizing that movement. As Father Richard J. Hauser S.J. says in his book In His Spirit “The deepest level of our being is spiritual” and “To be true to our deepest nature we Christians have the immense task of becoming aware of the movements of the spirit and responding to them at all times, during our work, our recreation, our prayer.”
And I might add, during those times when we are employing our talents of playing basketball, coaching, administrating and training. The presence of God after all, permeates all arenas!
In the basketball world, we have to be open to the influence of other people in our lives. We have to decide who to be open to in regards to our coaches, fans and teammates. Whose encouragement and whose criticisms do we listen too. The same is true for coaches, administrators and trainers. We live in a world where many people have an opinion and they have multiple avenues to express their opinion, but to be open to all opinions will only confuse and frustrate us. Some people’s opinions of course are more valid than others’ and we need to recognize whose opinions are valuable and whose are not. (And of course, The Holy Spirit’s opinion is the most valid for us to listen to in all aspects of our life.)
One of the biggest problems we have in spirituality is the inability to see God’s spirit working inside of us. We think of God as only being in heaven handing down judgment, punishing us for our misdeeds and rewarding us for good deeds. We see God too often as a tyrant coach, making us run when our teammate commits a turnover or giving us an early water break for being focused. But this is not the relationship we actually have with God.
In Christian spirituality, the Scriptures and the Church encourage us to find God within ourselves. They ask us to be “moved” by the Holy Spirit, not moved by the promise of rewards or punishment. The Scriptures and the Church are clear on this, it is God who initiates the relationship with us through the Holy Spirit, and we are asked to respond to that relationship by allowing God to shape us, mold us and then move us. But in order for this to happen, we need to practice opening ourselves up to the presence of God in our lives.
So the true basis of spirituality, is to first be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit within us and then to practice recognizing the Spirit working in our lives. We have to ask ourselves, if God was trying to tell me something, would I realize it. Or, am I too tied up in my own preoccupations to notice that God is calling me to something greater. This is our spiritual practice, to recognize how the Spirit moves in our lives.
What a phenomenal realization it is when we understand that the basis of our spirituality is that the Creator of the Universe wants a relationship with His creatures!
- Do I view God as simply handing out punishment or blessings based on my good and bad deeds? Do I feel myself as being moved by the the thought of being punished or rewarded, or by being “moved” by the Spirit?
- If God was trying to tell me something would I know it? Am I looking to engage with the Holy Spirit in conversation?