I remember asking God one time why I felt so empty, and a picture came to mind of a glass held upside down under a running faucet. God can be continually pouring out fresh, life-giving water, but if my heart is oriented away from him, I lack the capacity to receive it. I think of spiritual disciplines as a way of reaching out to God so that he takes my hand, turns the glass right side up and fills me until I overflow.
Spiritual disciplines can be tricky. You see, I am a rule follower at heart. I check the labels on clothes before I put them in the laundry. I get nervous about expiration dates on food condiments that no one pays attention to. I double and triple check the dosage on any medications I have to take. The “do not remove until purchase” labels on furniture and pillows remain in place years later. Just in case. If you see me on the highway, you’ll most likely find me in the right-hand lane, harshly judging people on their phones or failing to properly signal. And you might get a side-eye if I count how many items are in your cart in the 7 item or less checkout aisle. For a very long time I struggled with why Jesus seemed so mean to Pharisees. I make a really good Pharisee.
So I have to think about spiritual disciplines very carefully. I need a vision of the promise they offer, not a resolution to try again harder, and this time really mean it. I’m not going for a record number of gold stars. I’m reaching for the hand of the lover of my soul.
I’m not called to fast because I should hate food but because my body can scream to always have its wants and needs met first and I need to train it to leave space for my soul to feast on the bread and wine of the presence of Christ. I’m called into study and memorization of the Word because my headspace can get really noisy, and I want to fill my mind with his and to take every thought captive to his light and peace. I’m called into giving because he has provided more than enough for me and will always be faithful. I’m called into prayer because I want to keep an interesting conversation going and because I need the affirmations and convictions he offers. I journal because in a 280 character, emoji-filled world of bings, buzzes and interruptions, I need practice putting my thoughts together and to build a record of the times God has delivered me because I’m apt to forget by the time the next trial comes around. I need practice serving in secret because my ego aches for the likes and the comments I would get if I could just mention it on Facebook or tell it to a friend and I need to train to wait for a better reward.
An important aspect of practicing spiritual disciplines is their recalibration of our lives which can get so easily out of balance. I’m called into silence and solitude because the world wants to keep me distracted and busy and lost in the crowd, but Jesus would like some alone time with me. He wants to know all about me and how I’m doing and what I’m thinking about. He wants to remind me how big he is and how strong, capable and wise. When I’ve been refreshed by this, he then calls me back into community. Back into touch with the rest of the body. So I can hear what hundreds of faith filled voices sound like when lost in worship and adoration. So I can scan the faces of friend and be reminded of their stories of how God answered that prayer, provided this person’s job, brought that person healing, saved that marriage or ignited that person’s calling and vision.
The spiritual disciplines are not a burdensome task to complete, but an experiment in a different way of living. They are not a scorecard of debits and credits but an invitation to a feast. They are a way of discovering and receiving more grace. It’s a way of turning our empty cups over. For from his fullness we have received, grace upon grace.
by Steve Lamp
Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.