August 23, 2019
We Need to Be Loved to Grow Spiritually
Talking about spiritual growth is not an easy task. It is a topic that can be viewed from a number of perspectives because what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. However, we can all agree that we want to grow spiritually; have a richer and deeper spiritual life. The hard part is discovering how to achieve that much-desired growth. Especially if we are part of a minority group.
If you are a member of the LGBTQI+ community, a racial or gender minority, you know what I'm talking about. It is not easy to grow when you are trying to survive and when you are also trying to heal the wounds that were caused by religion or a church.
In my opinion, the first thing is to stop justifying our existence before those who deny our humanity. The Bible has been used to oppress women, the LGBTQI+ community and those of us who are not white. Putting ourselves on an equal footing is very exhausting. The best thing is to rest in the love of God, being sure that God loves us just as we are and created us as God’s sons and daughters.
Another way to grow spiritually, at least for me, has been to create spiritual practices or habits that connect or reconnect me with God. If we have a healthy image of God, we will approach God out of love and not out of fear of any condemnation.
Two fundamental pillars of my faith have been prayer and reading the Bible. And I believe that as Episcopalians we are very fortunate because we have the Book of Common Prayer that gives us a system to pray and meditate on the Word of God every day. In the morning and evening prayers we find a guide to speak with God and feed on God’s Word. The important thing as with any habit is to be consistent and practice them daily.
Apart from these two pillars, I think it is essential to look at our daily tasks as potential spiritual habits. I have always believed that something that seems ordinary can be sacred. For example, if you like to sing you can take some time during your day and dedicate some songs to God. Let those songs be your prayer and connect you with the presence and love of God.
Another example, may be silence. We live in a world where those who do more things are rewarded, even if they are wearing themselves out trying to fulfill a thousand commitments a day. We have become accustomed to living in chaos, full of noise that bothers us without realizing it. So, taking a few minutes every day to be silent is something countercultural. In addition, it is a way of listening to God. It is a time to stop asking and just listen and feel what God wants to tell us.
Returning to the topic of spiritual wounds, I believe that without trying to heal those wounds it will be very difficult to create the habits that will help us in our spiritual growth. It is fundamental to find a community of faith that accepts you and values you with all your gifts. A community where you can talk about those things that nobody wants to talk about: racism, sexism, sexuality, diversity, etc.
Being part of a community of faith where you feel loved and accepted, where you do not have to change or hide something from your life or who you are, will help you to create and practice your spiritual habits. However, spiritual growth is not only an individual goal but must be something that will bear fruit in our environment, including our church and community. For this reason, it is necessary to be part of a church, where we can nourish each other, learn from others, be challenged and also share what we are doing in our spiritual life.
Finally, do not be discouraged if you do not see the fruits of your new habits from one day to the next. It does not work like that. It takes months and years to see the difference. The important thing is to continue practicing them daily. There will be times when you will feel closer to God and other moments where you will feel far away. Trust that God is in both seasons. Little by little you will see the fruits. The people closest to you will notice and they will tell you.
Now the challenge is in your hands. How will you grow spiritually this year? You decide.
Andrés Herrera is Chilean but has lived in other countries longer than in his native land. He studied journalism and then theology, he met the Episcopal Church in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2015, during his training as a hospital chaplain. He is passionate about writing and helping marginalized communities, because he is part of several of them.