With a lot of what is going on in my life lately, anyone spending time around me would probably hear me mention the word God at least several times during any of my conversations. I know at least more than once, I’ve had people tell me in those conversations that they are not religious. What’s funny is that neither am I.
For some reason, the first thought is of religion when one might hear the utterance of the word God. For the longest time, I probably felt the same way. I grew up in a family that attended a United Methodist church on just about every Sunday. My father was a layman there and my mother a bell choir ringer. My parents donated faithfully to the church every Sunday. They volunteered for many of its events. They even did religious weekend retreats and weekly Bible studies. On the outside to everyone else, we seemed like the perfect family. We weren’t though. In fact, we were far from it. Like many might today, my parents often used the Bible as a weapon for their arguments. “That’s not very Christian like” might have been a phrase used during one of them. The way they acted at home was so very different from the way they presented themselves at church and in the public. While we might have been deemed a good Christian family to others that we knew back then, I had secretly vowed to part ways from it all when I left home. Being religious brought up a lot of negative connotations within me because of what I endured growing up. On top of the paradox that my parents lived behind closed doors versus how they lived in public, I also remember many sermons at church that were about how all human beings are sinners and that we are guilty more than not. I remember that to keep a good religious label meant donating more time and money to building a better church. And that’s just with what I remember as a child on what being religious meant. Today, the Bible is being used as a dagger in so many different ways, one of which is affecting me directly. Homosexuality is still deemed one of the ultimate sins by most major religions and I have been rejected from ever being a part of at least five different churches now in my life because of it.
Through my work in the rooms of 12 Step recovery, I have learned that spirituality is quite different from religion. I once heard of a very simple way to understand the difference. Religion was defined as the study of all its laws and principles that came within its own practice. Spirituality was defined as simply applying them in one’s life. My 12 Step work has led me to expand this definition more by realizing that I don’t need to go to church to hear God’s higher calling for me. And I don’t need to attend a weekly service to learn what is in my greatest highest good.
Being spiritual for me instead means serving God in whatever capacity I can every single day. It means starting my day by asking God to guide me in all my thoughts, words, and actions. It means asking God to keep me free from all addictions and obsessions throughout that day. It means keeping myself open to giving and receiving by praying and meditating daily. And it means giving thanks and gratefulness to God when each of my days come to an end. While I do own a Bible, several of them for that matter, I also own many other religious books and texts and none of them are the basis for living my life today. While each of them may lay forth good principles to living a healthier life, being spiritual in my life has led me to taking my instructions on daily living directly from God.
So am I religious because I use the word God often in my life? Absolutely not. I am spiritual because I live by my spirit within and I do my best every day to listen to what my Higher Guidance may be asking me to do. For me, it doesn’t come from a building that has a cross in it. It doesn’t come from a structure with an alter at the front of it’s hall. It doesn’t come from studying books that were written a very long time ago. It doesn’t come from a constant reminder that I was born a sinner and need to repent often. It doesn’t come from learning laws and principles that someone else is preaching to me. Where it does come from though is from my own daily practices which include praying, meditating, and communing with God alone. In those times, I ask how it is that I can live a more peace-filled and loving life here on Earth and then I wait for the answers to come. They always do. And when they do, I apply them to my daily living and in doing so, I continue to maintain a life of living spiritually.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson