A popular expression these days is, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” and yet spirituality and religion need to go hand in hand. At its root, the word religion is related to the word ligament—a part of the body that connects other parts to one another. And really, this is what religion is: A practice that helps us realize our connectedness to God and to make connections in community. Practicing our faith with other Christians helps us connect all our different experiences together to help us see a tapestry where before we just saw isolated threads. It also helps us feel connected to other people—not just our immediate neighbors, but to people around the world… and not just in the present, but also past and future.
And so don’t let anyone tell you that being “religious” is a bad thing, or that it cancels out the possibility of spirituality. It is, in fact, just shorthand for being connected to God, staying connected to our neighbors, and making connections between all the spiritual highs and lows we experience in life.
Spirituality, for Christians, is the sphere of the Holy Spirit. In both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, the word for Spirit is the same as both breath or wind. Thus, spirituality is God’s life-giving presence within us as holy breath (this comforting image is reïnforced in the Bible when the Holy Spirit descends as a dove); and it is a presence that surrounds us, moves us, and drives us as a divine wind (a challenging image reïnforced by the biblical image of fire).
We practice spirituality on a weekly basis when we gather for worship. Individual and small group/family spirituality may also be practiced through daily devotions, Bible reading, and prayer. One of the best ways to stay connected spiritually is through regular church attendance and keeping our finger on the pulse of our faith community, for this keeps us aware of others’ needs and the needs of the world. It also challenges our individual beliefs—something that’s unlikely to happen if we view spirituality as a strictly personal or individual practice.