Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Spirituality as a Hobby

"A Road Less Traveled"

A few years back when we first moved out to the desert,  I decided to take up a few hobbies: photography and gardening. While I have been somewhat successful in my attempts at photography, I have (to date) been a pretty dismal failure when it comes to gardening.

Interestingly enough, many of my neighbors have planted lush desert vegetable gardens that produce an abundant crop even at the driest and hottest times of the year; but my little garden had barely a few small tomatoes and a couple scrawny looking peppers before I gave up on it and decided to wait and try again when the weather turned cooler.

I’ve been thinking about why my garden has been such a disaster and realized that I just didn’t put enough time and energy into it. Gardening was just a little hobby that I dabbled in from time to time; but it in a desert climate if you really hope to be successful, you have to make gardening somewhat a priority—carefully investigate what plants grow best and when they should be planted, learn about what kind of soil and fertilizer you need, water the garden several times a day.

Like anything in life, I suppose I could yet become a “green thumb” gardener if I put my mind to it. The same is true for my photography, I suppose I could become a really accomplished photographer if I did more than dabble at it from time to time.

There are many people who claim they are “religious” or who think of themselves as pursuing some sort of spiritual path. I wonder if spirituality is little more than a hobby to “dabble in” from time to time?

There are plenty of  “religious “ people who were “born into” their religion. On occasion, they may go to a church or temple, maybe say a few prayers now and then, because that’s what they have always done and that’s what is expected of them. Many people may also think of their religion as an “insurance policy,” thinking that’s it's probably a good idea to keep on God’s good side by checking in with “him” from time to time.

Even for those growing number of people who have abandoned any affiliation with a formalized religion but continue to label themselves as spiritual, their “spirituality” is sometimes little more than an “afterthought," a hobby to be pursued on occasion. Some people pursue spirituality because it reduces their stress, others may carve out a little period of quiet meditation every morning, but then it's off into the real world of everyday life.

When I look at the wisdom of most of the great world-wide religious and spiritual traditions, the spiritual quest is never offered as a hobby to dabble in from time to time but rather it is a “lifestyle," a life-path to be followed.

Jesus told his potential followers:

No one who puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back
is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

In other words, if you decide to follow the path of the Kingdom of God, to walk on a path of  justice and compassion,  you have to keep your eyes fixed on the road and make walking this path your priority in life.  This is true for any of us who walk on any spiritual journey - the path we travel always points us in the direction of “compassion” in all we say or do and walking that road demands that we keep our eyes fixed on the path. 

In some sense it makes very little difference if you go to church or say some prayers (or even lots of prayers) or meditate on a mat from time to time if the course of your everyday life doesn’t try to follow a way of compassion and generosity of living.

Every day I am confronted with choices to be made on the road I travel in my life. If I chose to be on a spiritual journey, I do my very best to walk the way of peace and love even though it may be a road less traveled.  I am reminded of the well-known Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness; joy
In this late summer season it’s staring to get get cooler in the desert and so it will soon be time to try my hand at gardening once again-maybe if I do more than dabble at I might become really good at it.  

I hope the same can be said of my walk in faith.

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