He asked the question just as simply as any other question.
It was a cold day and rain was tapping gently on the window. I shifted in the chair as I glanced outside, as if the answers would be found out there somewhere. The warmth of the fireplace next to me reminded me that I was, in fact, inside my therapist's office, and there was the silence of an unanswered question lingering in the air.
Spiritually. How am I doing? It's such an interesting question, I thought -- so much more complex than perhaps he realizes. It's more complex than any of us realize most of the time. In Christian culture, we ask it so flippantly. But what do we mean by it?
My first inclination was to go back over the last week and think about how many times I had turned to the Bible -- how many times I had sat in quiet before the Lord -- how many specific, purposeful prayers I had offered. With a three-week-old and a 21-one-month old at home, and some unsettled hormones inside -- not to mention a recovering postpartum body -- the answer wasn't great. Maybe once in the last week, I thought, I had spent some time in the Word.
But that's not it, I thought. That's what I jump to when people ask me this question, but that's not a true gauge of my relationship with the Lord.
It took me a couple minutes to answer, and I started with some "Ums," and, "Well, I guesses," and, "Okays," but eventually I realized my true answer.
"There are seasons," I said. "And I'm in a very specific season of life and of connection to God. I may not be able to read the Bible as much as I'd like to, but ... I don't feel like I'm sitting in judgment from the Lord because... I'm just in a different season."
Now let me be clear: I'm not saying that reading the Bible isn't important. I'm not saying that disciplined time with the Lord is superfluous. What I'm saying is that those things aren't always possible in one's life. When they aren't possible, God finds other ways to minister and work in our lives. Our spiritual growth is not dependent on checking off that "Quiet Time" box on our to-do list.
In the last few weeks, I have had to be really conscientious of God's work in my life. It's a 3-am-feeding-prayer instead of a 9-am-focused-prayer. It's in the moments of "God-Help-Me!" and "God-I-need-you-right-now!" It's when God gives me a song instead of tears -- when I need to be patient with a daughter and need prayer to get me through -- when I have a choice between a TV show and reading a book about spirituality. It's in these moments that God is choosing to mold me and make me into something new.
"I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul...about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, "Am I growing in love for God and people?" The real issue is what kind of people we are becoming. Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important -- not because they prove how spiritual we are -- but because od can use them to lead us into life. We are called to do nothing less than to experience day by day what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ."
- John Ortberg, The Life You've Always Wanted
- How are you doing spiritually?
- How have you answered that question in the past?
- What's your first instinct in answering it?
- What do you mean by the question when you ask someone else?