“I’m spiritual, not religious.”

“I’m spiritual, not religious.”

I hear this all the time.

“I’m spiritual, not religious.”

On a recent episode of the TV show THE CARMICHAEL SHOW, the character of Maxine, when questioned on her religion said it. And when she was pushed on what that really means, she wound talking about everybody coming together in a big cup. Her partner Jarrod then questions her “Cup” explanation, she says that she has never had to explain her beliefs before and that every time before when she has said, “I’m spiritual, not religious,” people just accepted that answer and let the topic drop.

Well, I am not letting the topic drop.

What does one do when one is spiritual? What commitments does a person make to spirituality? What demands does spirituality make on a person? What does one read for empowerment? Does one have communion with other people? What qualifies as sacred and what as secular or is there a difference? What about good and evil?

I do not doubt the sincerity of people who make this claim as much as I wonder how deeply people have thought about what this spirituality they profess is. Now i know some people use the phrase as a dodge. (I know because I used to be one of those people and I have met people have told me they use it as a dodge.) I am not talking about those people, but the people who believe they are spiritual and that it means something in their lives.

And I get it. I get feelings of awe and wonder. I get bliss and joy and contentment. I get the profundity of a peace that passes understanding and a stillness of the soul that can only be described as a grace supreme. I get it, I really do. but I also get that there are days when there is no awe, no bliss, and no peace. There is no holy pick-me-up available. What sustains you then? Yes, joy cometh in the morning, but first we must endure the weeping in the night. Those hard places, the places of sacrifice and want, the thorny paths of grief and sorrow and loss, the crevices of isolation, desolation, depravity and despair, what do you do there? What do you do when there is no feeling at all? What do you do in the empty times?

For me I exercise an intentional faith, a practiced religion, a deliberate choice to believe that joy does cometh in the morning. Do I know the good times will come? No. But I choose to believe so, to act in accordance with that belief, to engage in the practices of that belief until the weeping and a darkness passes, until the joy comes. This is the place for religion, for something to hold onto when you can not see awe and wonder and bliss. This is the place of faith.

“I’m spiritual, not religious.”

Are you really? Are you sure?

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