This week in our Yes to God Study hosted by Lelia, we hit on the stingy subject of Ms. Spirituality. Ms.Spirituality is Chapter 5 in Lisa Whittles book Behind Those Eyes. If you would like to join the study or see what others are discovering in the study head over to Lelia's blog.
Lisa (quotes in purple) starts out first by talking about the bleeding woman who touched Jesus' robe and was healed in Luke 8:42-48. This woman is one I have related to over and over again. How many times have I come crawling to Jesus to heal me, love me, help me and forgive me. She came to Jesus completely vulnerable , why, and why must we be completely vulnerable? With out exposing our vulnerability we hide our struggles, fears and pains. These build up and slowly eat away at us, like bleeding slowly we will die from it. Our spirits will become shriveled, bitter, resentful, and disconnected from God.
Paul writes in Romans 8:6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
When the bleeding woman opened up to Jesus and exposed her vulnerabilities Jesus healed her. She was free from it. That's what we do when we unlock that dark part of our soul, the things we don't want people to know about or we don't want to see ourselves. When we give it to Jesus, truly in faith knowing that He is our last hope (he already knew it was there anyway) He will heal it and stop the bleeding and free us from it. That step must come from our faith in knowing that Jesus is the one who can stop the bleeding and death of our soul, and give us peace. Lisa writes of the bleeding woman, I can only guess what the highly spiritual people in the crowd that day thought of this woman, so clearly in need of a touch from God. She was totally going against type when she reached out to Jesus only a person worthy of His touch would should seek Him in most peoples eyes. Yet Jesus attaches a highly spiritual word to her - faith.
Spiritual is really a word I never really connected myself with. It's like a buzz word now, people are on spiritual journey's, they are seeking to be more spiritual and one with the universe. It's connected to many religions, and trains of thoughts. It speaks of a force in the universe that has no real depth or is incapable of a real caring and loving relationship.
So admitting that I've walked hand in hand with Ms. Spirituality is a bitter pill, but it's true. I found that I like I'm sure many others of us have many items checked off on the Ms. Spirituality's check list from page 78 and I could probably add a few more, in place of the ones I haven't checked. The list made me laugh because almost immediately in my head I could hear Steven Curtis Chapman singing in my head "What about the Change, What about the difference, What about the grace, What about forgiveness, What about a life worth showing that I'm under going a Change" He lists off many items on the list, Christian tshirts, refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, necklaces, just to name a few. Lisa list included Attends Church/Sunday School/or small group every week. Speaking "Christianize" fluently, attending mission trips, women's retreats, journaling, blogs, writing our own devotionals, and attending midweek activities. The list goes on. No these are not bad things but as Lisa put it. "The point is not that Ms. Spirituality does these things, rather, why she does these things. Remember, it's all in the performance, not in the act itself. It's a role that is played when it is deemed necessary to impress someone, yet it holds not real depth whatsoever.
There is a huge danger in not being spiritually transparent we loose out on a personal relationship with Jesus. It could easily cause us to slip and fall into sin, and now we have mastered the way to cover it up. There are many people who go to church and church events even small groups who aren't in a relationship with Jesus. My husband as I've shared before sat in church for 4 years and didn't truly understand God's saving and loving grace. If you asked him though if he believed in God and Jesus he would have told you yes. For many that's just what you do. I remember a quote from the book Left Behind "There's a big difference between knowing and believing." I've always remembered that line, because the character who said it was a pastor who'd been left behind after the rapture. Lisa writes The problem comes when our performance of these characteristics takes precedence over the actual condition of our hearts.
The thing that I realized in this chapter is that when I'm in the Ms. Spirituality mode it's because I'm hiding from God. So I start adding more "Spiritual Work" so no one will know that I've veered off and am no longer communicating with God.
When I first met my husband I was active in bible study. I did share but asked more questions because I was so new to studying the bible, and I didn't understand how the references from the Old Testament fit in with the New Testament. I would get easily lost, luckily they were patient, and my pastor was the leader. I also did the nursery care rotation, and the high light of my weeks were to be at church or small group. I wanted to learn and I needed to be around other believers. I always felt so filled up, after Sunday and Wednesday, and I was growing in my faith.
Then I met Brett and we had our first date set up. I had just spent a weekend at a women's retreat and he was coming over for dinner to my house. I was determined to just be his friend. I also figured once he saw what dating a single mom of a 2 1/2 year old would be that he'd be done with any romantic ideas. Brett tells part of this story in his testimony about our conversation at dinner. He was telling me about his NA meeting and all about how they picked a higher power. It could be anything that they connected with as a higher power that was greater than ones self. Some people had the ocean, music, their parents, or just a "force" out there. I must have had a funny look on my face, because he asked me if I had a higher power. I looked him straight in the eye and said Jesus Christ there is no other Higher Power. I wish I could tell you that we got into this deep theological conversation, or that I led him to Jesus right then and there, but you know that's not true. No after that strong statement of faith, that my friends was the end of my witness that night.
Brett was everything I wasn't looking for. Well actually I wasn't really looking at all it took me a while to figure out he'd been trying to ask me out. Anyway first off I wanted someone older than me - Brett is 14 years younger than me (that's a whole different post). I wanted someone who was a Christian - Brett hadn't been in church since he was like 4 years old. I was hopping that I would meet some one grounded financially and independent - Brett wasn't either in fact he still lived with his mom and only made $12 hour (in the Silicon Valley doesn't go very far). But boy did he make me laugh, and was sweet with Brinn. So I was hooked.
So the next thing I knew we are dating, I've walked right back into a worldly relationship. Yep he spent the nights - eventually he stopped going home. I remember asking him do you live here now? I kept going to church even got Brett to go. The I got him to join the small group which totally intimidated him, bought him a Bible, got him to watch Christian Videos, and told everyone he was seeking. I was going to convert him. Yeah right.
In the mean time I was Ms. Spirituality to my friends and family. My daughter went to a Christian preschool, we went to church every Sunday, we went to our Bible study, and all the church activities. At one point Brett did pray for salvation with The Jesus movie, but that's about as committed as his heart was, and any changes would come and then quickly go. Then we got engaged. We went to the pastor for premarital counseling, and he set us up in Alpha course - where you learn what Christianity is. We got married and continued on.
After we got married, I knew in my heart that things weren't right. We made choices that were against what I knew God would want, we didn't rely on God we relied on ourselves, and I didn't tell a single person. Especially God, I never went to God and let him stop the bleeding. Brett and I drifted from our small group. The more I drifted away from God the more Ms. Spiritual came out. I volunteered for two teams at church, even signed Brett up for another. (Brett sunk deeper in his addictions) I convinced Brett we need to be a part of the young families group we even gave our story as a couple. I would tell people how Brett was growing in his faith(lie) because I needed him to be Mr. Spiritual even if it wasn't true. I would tell people I'll pray for you, never tell them that I needed prayer. I would go on women's retreat take notes and they'd end up in the trash. This went on from March of 2002 until March of 2006 when at a women's retreat God finally broke through and I started to pray again asking God to help me I was spiritually bankrupt. He answered that prayer when He exposed Brett's addiction and forced us to our knees in late August 2006. (for more on this see post Witnessing Transformation & Redemption)
Ms. Spirituality in not a woman I want to be again. She is a dangerous mask, because she tricks you into thinking you have a deep relationship with God, but it's not the one God wants. God wants you all dirty and bleeding he wants us to come to Him fully vulnerable so He can love us, and heal us. Then and only then can others see Jesus in me. Lisa writes True spirituality is about the awesome power of God showing up in a person's life to the point that people around her notice a difference.
Does this mean I can't listen my Christian Music or have my NOTW window decal in my car, or any of the other things that are on that check list. No it just means that having those and doing certain things does not make me a Christian, or spiritual. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. It's my faith and living out that faith transparently that shows that I love Jesus shows my spirituality, by letting the Holy Spirit lead me and guide me. It's my open dialogue that I run throughout the day with Jesus, it's knowing that even though times are scary, moneys tight, or my health is in a crazy mode that these battles belong to God, and I don't have to fight them on my own. It also means that when these things happen it's okay to go to my friends and family and especially Jesus and say this hurts, I'm scared, and I need help.
One last thought to share with you all. Lisa talked about her group, and the lady that came to visit who's husband was an alcaholic. She shared that this lady was afraid her husband might not be comfortable because of this. Praise God for the man who shared his battle with her. Brett and I have experienced difficulty in this area when we meet other people. When we first shared Brett's addiction at church with a group, they just didn't know what to say. So they didn't say anything. It was hurtful and sad. They didn't mean to hurt us, we know that now, but at the time we just needed someone to come up and pray with us. We did find those people later down the road, but not then. So now I just wanted to share if God presents you a family broken and hurting, even if you don't know a thing about what they might be battling, just say something even if it's just to walk up and ask if you can pray with them. Just as another Casting Crown's song says "Love them like Jesus"