If I want people to feel uncomfortable, I usually tell them I’m a minister. Once upon a time, this was a popular sort of profession. Harvard, for example, was founded to train ministers. These days, it’s akin to an unsavory body odor. People will put up with it, but they won’t get too close!
As for churches, most pews sit empty. This is particularly the case with more progressive churches. Houses of worship don’t have people. People don’t have spiritual vitality/integrity/and community. It would seem to solve the problem to bring the people back into the church and give them a nice minister—but you aren’t going, are you? And I don’t blame you. And I’m not going to ask you to either. But you do have a spiritual path and it’s waiting for you.
The way that you have the need to eat and drink, to love and learn, you have the need for spiritual integration. Because this concept is foreign to so many us, we assume we do not need it. We’ll take our spirituality with a trip to the crystal store and a yoga retreat, both good things. But you wouldn’t take your meals once a year would you? You wouldn’t drink every so often and hope the magic of water would keep you alive, right? Spiritual integration is the drawing in of our spiritual identity as something as worthy and important as our other identities and in fact as concurrent and inseparable from them.
Houses of worship, which have done a thousands things wrong, also hold space as places of the symbolic. Without them ceremony, rites, and the concept of sacred place for so many of us only exist in a space in which we might purchase something as a lone, independent person. I strongly believe in individual and independent spirituality. Actually, I don’t need to believe in it! It simply exists. But when we walk around feeling that something is MISSING from our lives, it truly is.
This country does not have spiritual health. We concern ourselves with what we look like—botox, diet, exercise—and our longevity—whole foods, relaxation, ongoing education but no person is whole who has not addressed their spiritual nature. And I mean NO PERSON.
I have worked with so many who are humanist, not-religious, not-interested and they, too, have a spiritual side. Getting lost in the language robs us of the chance to experience real health as a multifaceted creation. When people find their way back to that part of themselves, it’s incredible. It’s integration.
The thing about a spiritual perspective on life is that it will never belong to the view we get from the valley. By nature it’s an expansive, whole-system, whole-person, whole-society way of understanding ourselves. When we want MORE, this is the more that truly satisfies. And we know that. We know it’s not more money or stuff that will fill us up.
It’s also not more little of this and a little of that. For those of my generation, we have rightly and sanely rejected groups and systems that oppress—sometimes even when we love tradition. Then we have sampled from the buffet of modern spirituality. After which we wonder why we don’t feel full. Going broad without going deep cannot serve our naturally deep selves. We do that and we go on with our lives wondering: what’s missing?
Instead, when we acknowledge that whether we have a word for it or not, a part of us always resides in the spiritual dimension, requires regular spiritual food and water, and the chance to get into the deep end and swim, we get closer to the wholeness that we both long for and possess.
And now a little rant: So many of us would go to a nutritionist or a homeopath or a doctor or a therapist, but we would not approach a minister. I can appreciate that given how terrible so many have been. But many doctors are terrible, too. And therapists! A minister gets training specifically to serve a person’s spiritual unfolding. I love to see so many people who were once actors or comedians or landscapers doing spiritual work after a personal experience, but I wouldn’t go have my bone reset with a doctor who had a “realization” about bones. I’m all for realizations, don’t get me wrong, but having education, training and practice does make a difference. It also means we are getting spiritual care that isn’t about “a feeling,” but founded on research, academic study, practice, and accountability.
Ok, off my soap box now and back to the powerful idea that spiritual integration means, for lots of us, reclaiming a part of ourselves much neglected and having a joyful reunion that feels like real health. Sounds a lot better than church, doesn’t it?