I hate to admit it, but it is oh so true: I used to be a spiritual snob! Growing up in a conservative Christian denomination which focused on its interpretation of scripture as the “best” or “only” interpretation gave me a strong basis of scripture knowledge for which I am very grateful, but I let it go to my head instead of my heart.
Thankfully, getting out of my small spiritual box, living overseas, going to a secular graduate school after my seminary degree, and changing denominations all exposed me to things that convicted me of my arrogance. I’m so sorry for the attitude I displayed for so many years. But I did find my way out of it and I want to encourage others to look beyond the edges of their spiritual boxes.
Leaders have a grand opportunity to discover so many new ideas from the people they lead, if they’ll just stop and listen and observe and ask questions.
Here are a few ideas to get you started on a path that may take you down some winding roads of discovery. There’s no one way or right way to do this. The goal is spiritual growth along the journey and becoming more like Christ. You will find there are some ways that are better for you than others at this season of your life. Each of these ideas is a way for you to PLAN your spiritual growth this year!
- Read from a different translation of the Bible this year. You’ll be amazed how a different wording of a familiar passage will give you fresh insights into its meaning and application to your daily life. For example, if you’ve never read about the Jewish background of the Bible we love, purchase a Jewish Study Bible (Old Testament only), The Complete Jewish Study Bible (Old and New Testaments), and/or The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Step into the cultural view that Jesus may have shared. Or try The Amplified Bible, The Message, or The New American Bible (a Catholic translation).
- Explore another faith tradition either within Christianity or outside it. Do you know much about the Eastern Orthodox Church? Learning about their icons and their long history is a wonderful way to get a new perspective on your own “new” Christianity (especially if you are in faith tradition that is less than 200 years old!) If you’re really curious, explore Buddhism or Zoroastrianism. These faiths were around a long time before Jesus. Getting acquainted with them will open your mind to some of the similarities in faiths across cultures and belief systems.
- Try a different method of devotional reading. Change the time of day or add another reading to your day. Use a prayer book from another denomination. The Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer is helpful. The Divine Hours is compiled by Phyllis Tickle and uses scriptures and readings from across denominations. Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word is a 365-day devotional book based on the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which is a selected list of scripture readings used each Sunday in many liturgical churches around the world. The RCL provides a three-year cycle (Year A, B, C) that begins with Advent each year. Advent 2017 began Year B; Advent 2018 will begin Year C; Advent 2019 will begin Year A, etc.
- Choose to read someone else’s written prayers. Find some writings by saints from the Middle Ages such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. Hildegard, or the early Church Fathers. Their experiences of God and expressions about God will reveal their understanding of God and will give you new thoughts about the expansive God we serve.
The churches I grew up in would shy away from anything that even sounded “Catholic.” Since then, I have discovered some wonderful Catholic and Orthodox bookstores and resources. I have read other denominations’ commentaries and prayer books, listened to music from different traditions, visited worship centers and services of other faiths, and educated myself on the lives of the saints whose stories are so inspiring. I finally gave myself permission to look outside the box I grew up in. And I found a whole world of knowledge about God that I wouldn’t have discovered inside my box. When I finally allowed myself to grasp the fact that God is so much bigger than my questions, my doubts, my level of understanding, and even bigger than my own faith tradition, then I knew my own spirit was expanding. May you have such an experience this year!
I can help you get started on this new journey! I’ll be speaking on “Spiritual Intelligence” on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, in Austin, TX. See my Upcoming Appearances page for more details.
Join the conversation: I’d love to hear what things you’ve done or are willing to try to plan for your own spiritual growth this year. Please share your favorite resources below in the Comments section!