Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Academy Award-winning actor Charlton Heston died in 2008 after a long career in show business. He was an actor that almost everyone had heard of—he played in 100 movies over 60 years. So he was well-known.
Years ago he was a guest on the American TV show The Merv Griffin Show. This was at a time in his huge career when he had gained much notoriety over his two mega-movies, The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur. During the interview Merv Griffin asked him, “Has your spiritual outlook changed any because of these two movies?” Charlton Heston thought for a moment and then replied, “Well, Merv, you can’t walk barefoot down Mount Sinai and be the same person you were when you went up.” I thought that was a terrific answer.
It’s not every TV interviewer that would ask a celebrity about his or her spiritual outlook. But I think it is an intriguing question: Has your spiritual outlook changed over the years? I’m not talking about your ‘religious outlook’. That is a different topic.
I have a sense that many people today are very interested in spirituality, in whatever way they define it. Dictionary says spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. The meaning has developed and expanded over time—that’s for sure. Spirituality is something that’s talked about a lot but is often misunderstood. Many people think that spirituality and religion are the same thing, and so they bring their beliefs and prejudices about religion to discussions about spirituality.
Though all religions emphasise spirituality as being part of faith, you can be ‘spiritual’ without being religious or a member of an organised religion. I think it has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose. It also relates to the process of developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection with others. A huge topic. And I think a lot of people are spiritually minded and choose not to attend church. Life can be full of ups and downs, good times and bad.
Many people see spirituality as a great way to seek comfort and peace in their life. Spirituality can be complex and you might feel overwhelmed or confronted, so don’t be afraid to talk about it with a trusted family member, friend, teacher or religious leader. Listening to other people’s experiences and making them feel meaningful for you might help you decide what spirituality means for you.
The Dalai Lama once joked that while the West was busy exploring outer space, the East was busy exploring inner space. But if you did a street survey asking people, What is spirituality? you’d get so many different answers. But as a committed Christian, I believe Christianity has all you ever need to find a truly satisfying spiritual life.
A great truth is that spirituality, in the Christian tradition, begins with God, not with myself. Psychologically, however, it begins with us, in the sense that at some point we sense our incompleteness, our loneliness, our profound limitations, our disillusion with all that glitters around us, and yet does not fulfil—it’s our longing for something or someone that can truly fill us. Consciously or unconsciously, we are searching for God. But the good news from the Bible is that God is in search of us.
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” – Revelation 3:20 (NLT)
This dynamic occurs over and over in the Scriptures, from the story of Adam and Eve, to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, in which the shepherd (image of God) goes out in search of the one who strayed. It also appears in the scene where Jesus is saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). The door is a symbol of the human heart. Notice again who takes the initiative. It is Christ who comes knocking and calling to us.
But he will never force his way into our lives. We must open the door of our heart to him, and that can only be done from the inside, that is, from our own free will. But if we make that choice, Jesus says, he will come in and share with us. To share a meal in the Middle East is always a sign of special friendship. Once again, we are back to the very essence of spirituality: a personal relationship.
Are you avoiding God?
So my personal question to you is: Are you avoiding God? So, first of all, God is always reaching out to us, inviting us. That is the first movement of spirituality. The second movement is up to us: We can choose either to ignore the invitation or to respond by committing ourselves to a personal relationship with God or with Jesus Christ alone, if we find it easier to relate to him; it really doesn’t matter, because one Divine Person will eventually draw us into relationship with him.
When I say we can choose to ignore God’s invitation, I’m not necessarily implying that this is a conscious decision. Most of the time, I think, we are simply too distracted or preoccupied to recognise that we are being addressed by God.
Stop and be quiet and talk to God your Heavenly Father. Open the Bible and let its words sink into your heart and mind. Ask Jesus to be your friend and Saviour. Then you will discover the best mode of spirituality there is.