Religion -vs- Spirituality

“Religion is the rules, regulations, ceremonies, and rituals developed by man to create conformity and uniformity in the approach to God.  Spirituality is God’s call in your soul.”  – Iyanla Vanzant

More than I ever wanted to or intended, I have been thinking about God and spirituality and what it all means to me right now.  Everything moves so fast, circumstances, my opinions, the clarity of what I believe.  I still don’t know.  To me, God is mysterious and to belive you know all about who God is makes you an arrogant fool.  But walking with someone through the dying process, hearing her beliefs change, being witness to her insights about who God has been throughout her life and in dying… I can’t help but consider what spirituality means to me.

What I know is this:  I feel more spiritually genuine now than I have at any other point in my life.  I haven’t been to church in years and I have no plans in the near future to return.  But I feel like I’m doing the right thing on a daily basis.  I feel my prayers for guidance and direction are answered in gentle, subtle ways.  I feel a lot of universal gratitude.  Synchronicity.  This is God’s hand in my life.

In a recent post for my friends and family, I said that I don’t want any religious catch phrases to smooth over this sad time in my life.  I still don’t.  Stock phrases are a great comfort to some people, but they remind me of my religious baggage.  I grew up forced to go to church.  I learned that I had to go to church at least weekly, have a church family, obey the bible, and accept jesus christ as my lord and savior in order to make sure I get to heaven when I die.  I internalized an unhealthy amount of guilt and judgment and condemnation.  I felt most of the time when I was involved in church that I was leading a double life because it was so easy to lead the life I wanted outside of church, and that made me question the genuineness of my belief in what I was supposed to take as unfailingly true.  I made a conscious decision in my late 20s to leave church and not come back to religion until I absolutely chose it for myself.

Even before this summer, I began to realize that I no longer had that double-life feeling.  I don’t hide parts of my life from other people anymore.  I don’t compartmentalize my existence making sure that I don’t get found out by this person or that one.  I feel free.  And that has to do with not only religion but drinking, shame, identity, being honest with myself, being courageous.  Being myself without judgment, asking for guidance as I live out what I believe to be my purpose, enjoying the small things – this is a spiritual existence and practice for me, everyday.  I don’t remember or acknowledge God every moment for the congruence in my life.  It’s more the tiny moments when I notice rightness and I silently say, thank you.

Yesterday I watched this 2-part interview with Iyanla on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah.  I’ve never been an Oprah fiend, but I have always enjoyed Iyanla.  There are some beautiful little nuggets of truth and inspiration that really lay out how I feel about religion and spirituality, reminders that God is everywhere and that religion makes God so small.   I found it really comforting to see these women talk about their spiritual journeys.  Some parts are incredibly corny, but overall this is a blessing to me.

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