Friday, December 28, 2018 - Updated: 2:14 pm
QUESTION: I often hear people talk about their “spiritual lives.” I am not sure what that means, but honestly think that I really don’t have one. I don’t feel particularly close to God. Unfortunately for me, God seems distant. It has not always been that way, but it is now because of so many changes in my life.
ANSWER: We are baptized into the community of Christ’s church. We gather as a community for worship, and our service of the Lord is directed toward the human family. But despite the church’s nature as a community, an individual’s spiritual life has to be rooted in a personal relationship with God. In this way, one’s abilities, personality and temperament play an important part in what is called a “spiritual life.”
We know that the spiritual life begins with an invitation from God. This invitation, for the Christian, is first manifested at baptism. Baptism is an adoption by which we begin the lifelong journey of deepening a friendship begun by God.
Yet, we also have an essential part to play in the growth of that friendship, and our part is necessarily dependent upon our abilities, personality and temperament. Our response to God’s invitation to friendship will necessarily change from day to day and over the years.
Most people experience moments of intense “closeness” to God, times when the Lord seems so personal and intimate. Those times are often related to a crisis in our lives (e.g. serious illness, the death of a loved one, etc.). They also may be related to “peak” experiences such as the birth of a child. Finally, there are moments when God seems so close because we have become more conscious of our need for forgiveness or after we have received it.
Our “closeness” with God then is related to our own dispositions. At times, we would like to deny this. Too often, we like to envision ourselves as angels who somehow relate to God in a way that has no relationship to our bodies, feelings, personalities, moods or temperament. But that is just not so.
The real challenge of a “successful” spiritual life is not to deny the human aspects of our lives but to integrate them with the spiritual, and to somehow relate to God with our whole beings (with all the gifts and all the flaws). This means that our relationship with God will experience change.
As with other friendships, a perceived “distance” from God does not necessarily mean that a friendship is ended or even in danger. What it does mean is that preserving the friendship may require more work. An essential part of that effort (in our relationship with God) is the life of prayer that is the conversation that keeps the friendship alive and fosters its growth. I would think that a person’s best approach is not to dwell too much on the “distance” but more on the reality of the relationship. That means to try to fully appreciate that it is God who calls, and we respond according to our abilities. Not every person’s “spiritual life” will be the same.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.