Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Religion -vs- Spirituality

Last night I co-hosted my very first cyber AA meeting.  For the most part it’s like a normal AA meeting, there’s a focus on one of the 12 steps, we do a reading, say our serenity prayer, and share our struggles and breakthroughs as related to our topic.  Basically the only difference is, instead of it being a tangible in person meeting, it’s online.  I am completely a supporter of physical, get together, meetings and I think it’s tremendously important to the recovery process. However, I see the value of the extra anonymity that online interaction affords. 

I enjoyed it immensely, there is just something about being in a place where you know others can relate to your darkness that brings comfort.  Amidst the discussion of the evening was a familiar exclamation of wanting nothing to do with the spiritual aspects of the program due to the fact that “religion is pointless and depressing.”  I couldn’t help but smile at the statement that sounded so much like mine at the start of my recovery.  I pondered how to respond when another attendee beat me to it.  His answer rang true for me and stuck in my mind the rest of the evening. 
“Religious people don’t want to go to hell, spiritual people have been there and don’t want to go back.  Religion is pointless; spirituality has power.”

The more I think about that statement the more I get behind it. Religion offers you a list to be kept so as to avoid punishment.  It gives you boundaries that leave your only choice after crossing them as denial.  It drives you to ignoring your brokenness as you strive for perfection.  It calls for behavior modification without healing your unbelief.  Religion is absolutely pointless.

Spirituality, living driven by the spirit, relating to others’ spirits, is so vastly different than religion.  Spiritually is very aware of brokenness.  It feels pain and admits weakness.  It is in tune with how devastating emptiness can be and it offers you redemption while you’re in the midst of it.  Where religion offers you a way to change your actions, spirituality offers you a way to fill your need and heal your heart.  It sees the darkness you’ve walked through and says, “Look what all I give you, you don’t ever have to be that person again.”  Spirituality has power.

So many people walk this earth believing that God is concerned with their religious affiliation and they miss the point of who He is.  We think God is so focused on our behavior that we are completely blind to the reality of Him pouring love on our hearts, embracing our brokenness, and wooing our spirits.  We picture God as a demanding religious figure with a list of people who have been good enough, behaved well enough, and done enough things to earn his favor.  This is how we see God, and it makes it hard for us to embrace Jesus.

See, because Jesus was different than what we think God is.  Jesus didn’t hang out in temples with the white robes of the priests or demand sacrifices before offering forgiveness.  Jesus walked this earth with dusty feet in tattered sandals.  He bent down and embraced people in their sin and offered love to those religion had rejected.  Jesus brought wine to the party and accepted dinner invitations from thieves.  Jesus had worn hands and sunburnt skin and he loved while our nails pierced through them and our whip tore it from his body.  How can we reconcile that Jesus with a God who we believe is like the ones who murdered him?

We can’t.  Because that’s not who God is.

That’s why He sent His Son, because we thought that’s who He was.  We live lives entrenched in sin because we think that’s who He is.  We run from Him because we think that’s who He is.  We live bound to addiction, suffering, depression, and unrest because we think that’s who He is. 

That is not who He is.

Jesus is who He is.

He offers us His full favor even when we abuse it.  He pours affection on us even when we are abrasive.  He pursues our hearts even when we run far from him.  He fills the emptiness even when it seems like a black hole.  That is who God is.   That is what He sent Christ for, so that we could know Him and we could have Him. 

What a fantastically abnormal God we have, that He would want to be one with a weary spirit like me!  Be encouraged this week knowing that His love for you is not dependent on your behavior.  Find freedom in the truth that His fullness is yours when you are at your most empty.  Know Him; have Him. 

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