God is never more distant than when talk of spiritual disciplines arises.
Darkness touched every crevice of the room. We had come to have an experience with God. This was our weekend. Spiritual discipline weekends were common in the world I grew up in, but I never wanted to go. I never felt like anything was real.
Then, things popped off. Light flooded the stage. The music pounded. I could feel my organs jiggling around inside my body. Ricky Rufio ran on stage pumping his fists. As all attention focused on Rufio, the entire room started to chant repeatedly, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” I can still hear it.
Before Rufio started talking, we flailed our hands wildly in praise. Rufio pointed directly at us and declared, “You need a standing appoint me with God.” For just under an hour, we were pounded with ideas of spiritual discipline. Then, the music kicked back up. As the guitar chords cycled repeatedly in our ears, we were called to the front. “If you want to commit to a standing appointment, run down to this altar and declare it to God.” I did. We all did. We wanted a closer relationship. We felt like we needed it.
The night began a period of searching for me. After keeping a quiet time of prayer, scripture meditation and solitude for a few weeks, I knew that wasn’t for me. Scripture meditation reminded me of why I didn’t read the Bible more often. Solitude only made me feel lonely. Quiet only made God more absent. I walked away from it all.
Spiritual discipline is spiritual destruction.
Different theologies offer different paths. Whatever I had wasn’t working, so I decided to try a new path. “Beat your mind into submission.” I remember my spiritual mentor repeatedly telling me that I needed discipline. The words always felt so violent. I assumed that they were the words of God. For a number of years, I tried hard. I fasted on a regular basis. The only thing I experienced was hunger. I practiced rest. I just got bored. I tried stillness. I almost lost my mind. Eventually, I realized that none of this was about God.
There is nothing organic about spiritual discipline.
I walked into the room. Candles were everywhere. The spiritual retreat was the first time I’d tried anything dealing with spiritual disciplines in a very long time. The leader of the gathering walked in. For about an hour, she hummed. I couldn’t figure out when she was going to stop. When she did, she said, “In order to listen to God, we’re going to be silent the rest of the weekend.” I knew that I was done. Slowly, I stood up and started to make my way toward the door. Before I could get out unnoticed, the leader of the spiritual retreat looked up and questioned, “Where are you going?” I replied, “Silence doesn’t work for me. I just don’t do well with silence.” In fear that her entire retreat was going to fall apart, the woman snapped back, “Those who don’t do silence, don’t do God.” I knew that was it. I left and never looked back.
Spiritual discipline has always been forced. God is not forced. God simply is.
Spirituality is about pressing into the “isness” of God. We are the “isness” God. We are made in God’s image. We are spiritual. We are enough. We don’t need more discipline. We need more being.
There are 12 spiritual practices I think would be helpful to our beings.
Movement is about refusing to be still.
Noise is about refusing to be silent.
Engagement is about to refusing to give in to the temptation of solitude.
Eating is about eating correctly and refusing to fast.
Being is about refusing to pray.
Deconstruction is about pushing back against the idea of meditating.
Immolation is about setting the person on fire within for life celebration and refusing to be caught up in external worship.
Risk is about refusing to be chained to ideas of trust.
Pain is about realizing that complete wellness is not possible.
Becoming is refusing to stay where you are.
Action is about rejecting ideas of rest.
Pushing is about exercising spiritual force to transform the world.
God is about movement. Our spiritual disciplines have long given us reason to stop when we should have been moving. Spirituality can be so much more than it currently is. Spirituality can transform the world.