A majority of Americans say they’re either religious or spiritual. But living a spiritual life isn’t easy. Maybe the problem involves the myths we tell ourselves about what it means to live a spiritually healthy life.
Americans aren’t very good at living a spiritual life
On paper, Americans are some of the most religious people in the world. According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans identify themselves as either religious or spiritual.
But when it comes to the importance of religion in daily life, the U.S. doesn’t fare nearly as well as other countries. Gallup polls show that just 65% of Americans view religion as an important part of their everyday lives.
Although we’re batting better than .500, we’re way behind other countries in the area of lived spirituality. Whether we admit or not, there’s a huge discrepancy between our stated spiritual commitments and the way we actually live our lives.
Myths about living a spiritual life
In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes how difficult living a spiritual life can be. The trick, it seems, is to create the right conditions for “divine seeds” to grow in our lives.
And for many of us, the first step toward creating those conditions is to get over the myths we believe about living a spiritual life:
MYTH #1: “I’ll get around to it eventually.”
A spiritual life should never be an item on a bucket list. Yet, for many of us, that’s exactly what it’s become — a someday sort of thing we will eventually get to when we have more time and fewer challenges in our lives.
But the truth is there will never be a better time to incorporate spiritual practices and spiritual mindsets into your everyday life. In fact, spirituality prospers in the midst of life’s challenges and when the challenges evaporate, your life can quickly become spiritually stagnant.
MYTH #2: “I’m living a spiritual life because I go to church.”
Working out at the gym for an hour a week won’t make you healthy, especially if you binge on beer and barbecue the rest of the week. Your time at the gym means nothing unless your commitment to healthy living affects the decisions you make every day.
Jesus had a word for people who participate in public worship, but never allow their faith to change their hearts: pharisees. Going to church is a good thing. It’s even a necessary thing. But it’s only a piece of the puzzle.
Unless you allow your faith to bleed into the way you relate to people and the way you approach big issues like poverty, peacemaking and the planet, living a spiritual life will always remain just beyond your grasp.
MYTH #3: “It’s about me.”
Books, websites and soul-searching have value. But you can’t achieve real spiritual growth by only looking inward. Why? Because living a spiritual life is largely about turning your attention outward and engaging with the world around you in more intentional and meaningful ways.
The spiritual life is lived in community and through service to others. Seeing God in the sunset feels nice. But seeing God in the people you serve at the local homeless shelter or in the kids you help at your church’s teen ministry or in the neighbor lady that you drive to the grocery store each week will change your life.
And in the end, isn’t change what living a spiritual life should really be about?