Reflecting on Spirituality

Posted By Mindy Black on Jan 20, 2022 | 3 comments


By Mindy Black

My Grandmother:

Every year in January, since I was 9 years old, while my grandmother was alive, I received a birthday card from her.  I was born in November, and she knew that.  But her card wasn’t late, and I knew this because the card always had the word “spiritual” in my grandmother’s handwriting squeezed between the printed ones of “Happy” and “Birthday.”  My spiritual birthday, my baptism. I remember being baptized because my Sunday School teacher threatened all of us in class one day with hell.  She told us we would never see our families again if we died tomorrow.  These “birthday” cards were the first time I encountered the word spiritual.

In my younger years, my grandmother inspired me to be a good person.  If someone were ever to ask me, “Who is the most spiritual person you know?” I would definitely have said it was her.  She devoted her life to helping others.  Besides taking care of her family, she  wrote letters to people in prison, and I mean, she was sincere.  She developed important relationships with so many inmates, writing the kind of words that turn people’s lives around.  She even helped manage other people that wanted to write letters. She was one of the leaders in a huge ministry.

So, my earliest thoughts on spirituality were: 1) you have to be baptized  and 2) you have to devote your life to helping others.  As I grew up, of course I realized that wasn’t quite right, but I never fully grasped what was.

A College Assignment: 

In a college Health class, the teacher challenged us to practice a daily habit that would improve our health.  We could choose from a long list of things and we would track our progress all semester.  I chose a “spiritual” health challenge.  I read the Bible for a certain amount of time each day and kept a prayer journal every day – writing out my prayers for others.  I kept track of things like my mood, my stress level, etc.

I started noticing that I didn’t worry about every little thing regarding my own problems.  For example, I lost my Art History book, which was really expensive to replace.  But I just didn’t worry at all, which is not like me.  But, sure enough, a teacher found it and gave it back to me! Little things like that were happening all the time.  My everyday small struggles became like nothing to me or would somehow just work out.  I felt really good!  I wondered at times, “Is this what spiritual feels like?”

But by the end of the semester, the prayer journal and the daily practices became a burden.  All those prayers started weighing on me.  I kept thinking of more and more people and things that I should be praying about, but never any real world solutions.  I’m not sure if I was praying too much or not the right way, but I soon became overwhelmed.  I just couldn’t keep up the routine of it all.  I did think about my grandmother again because I know that she prayed for a long list of people and things every day.  How did she do it?

So, my next thoughts about spirituality were:  it’s exhausting and overwhelming!

Worship:

About 20 years ago, I was in a church where I devoted a lot of time to a homeless ministry.  I loved being at that church except that some of the people leading it kept talking about how they wanted worship to be a more spiritual experience.  Little by little, things kept changing like music playing while we prayed, the song leader encouraging people to hold their hands up while we sang, etc. They would say, “Let the spirit move in you.” One night, when we gathered before or after a homeless meal, one of the church leaders started a prayer and then encouraged everyone to lay hands on others around them.  It soon became this really weird call and response thing that I cannot even explain really, except all I vividly remember is that a younger member, just a teenager, started sweating, teetering, and screaming, “Yes, Lord Jesus!”  And she literally fell down and passed out.  It was like those stories you hear about the huge mega rallies that some people go to where people swoon.  But this was happening in a very tiny church with the homeless people we served making up a large portion of the people attending.    Everyone else was so excited and kept saying that they were filled with the spirit that night.  I felt so uncomfortable.  I couldn’t wait to never go there again. After that, the word spiritual was a real mystery to me, if it wasn’t already.  How could I have been there witnessing something so unnerving to me and yet someone else thought they were filled with the spirit?

Now my thoughts about spirituality for some people might be: an external display of how much you love God so others can see how great you are. 

Now:

Of course, along the way, many other things in my life have shaped how I feel about the word spirituality. Yoga, meditation, connections to other people.  All things that were not exactly what my grandmother meant when she sent me those cards. It’s funny, though, how people can still hold onto the original way they have been taught about things.  I know this because when I was first asked to write this reflection this week (before I even looked at the topic), my first deep-in-my-gut reaction was: I can’t; I’m not spiritual enough. 

3 Comments

  1. Mindy, thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. What a joy to read this! I agree that it’s worth a caution when we evaluate ourselves, or someone else, on how “spiritual” we/they are. This seems to be ego talking, and it think it misses the point. Your Grandmother sounds amazing. The idea of writing to folks in prison is quite intriguing.

    Post a Reply
  2. Thank you for your reflection that I will contemplate upon. You reminded me of my grandmother whose daily life was filled with chores at home, daily bible reading, and calling on others. Thank you.

    Post a Reply
  3. I love this Mindy. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. You were hesitant and you did it anyway. Feels kind of scary-good doesn’t it?

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.