There is an old saying: “Nobody gets out alive.” On the surface, that’s a little shocking, but it is absolutely true. Everybody dies. If this was a person’s last day on earth – and knew it would be – would that make any difference in how he or she would react?
If everyone lives their lives as if it was on the edge of death, the unknown, the eternal, would make it a difference? Objectively, yes.
Living a spiritual life holds within it looking above and beyond the immediate desire for immediate satisfaction, and past the selfish desires to which all humans find, by nature, attractive. It doesn’t matter which religion or philosophy one chooses, so much as it requires placing others’ needs beyond the individual. Compassion and service can become a happy habit, particularly when those who give are equally the recipients of others’ gifts of care, concern and even love and prayer.
Call it whatever – a “church family” or a “community” – but the result is just the same.
A group that agrees to work towards a common goal of love and care can result in a society of high trust and strength that can achieve much more than any individual (or even a single family) can on its own. That is how civilizations are formed, grow and achieve great things.
When a person, or a family member, becomes ill or even dies, then that community comes together. Whether it’s the classic casserole or mowing the lawn or even just calling up and asking how the widow/widower/parent is doing means so very much. That is the impulse that spiritual people are immediately attracted to.
True, it is entirely possible that faith in a spiritual ideal can be hijacked by a sociopath – in the true sense of the word – who wants to manipulate other well-meaning people. The horrors of Jonestown in Suriname come immediately to mind. There is also the possibility of a community of faith that goes off the rails, as it were, and focuses on a particular sacred writing that they interpret as a signal of how a divine being favors one group over another. Those traps are always present in the path of someone who wants to follow a spiritual path.
Perhaps – and this is just a suggestion – there are some signs that someone who wishes to become a spiritual person can use to avoid the flaws of human nature and actually live a good life, no matter what their religion or creed:
1. Is there something or someone greater than you?
2. Although the individual is important, even vital, to a healthy society, do people help each other, even when they do not directly benefit from their actions? Family, friends, neighbors and even complete strangers can, and will, in a healthy spiritual society, go out of their way (even at their own cost or even risk) to help others.
3. As a sub-set of item 2 (call it 2a), have you ever noticed that almost every serious religion and spiritual person has at its core the Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would do unto you?
4. Think and believe. If someone says “No! That’s wrong! Stone him!” that might be a sign that you’re in the wrong place.
5. The willingness to confess – to publically state – belief in a particular spiritual belief, but without judging those who do disagree with you is a very, very good sign.
There are so many songs and poems about romance and adventure, but there is a special place in the world for literature about spirituality. More than that, there are just those small, incidental actions that people make that show, well, love for another fellow-traveler in this life. Anyone who has had their lunch meal check paid by a complete stranger knows how humbling that small act can be; anyone who has done that for another knows that it is only providing thanks to someone else.
One final question: What would the Holy Spirit do?