What Shapes Your Spirituality?


African Village scene

African Village scene



Last week I wrote a post on New Realities Shaping Spirituality in the 21st Century.  Since then I have been thinking a lot about the forces that shape spirituality for all of us in this global village in which we live.  These thoughts have been spurred on by the fact that Pentecost is only a few weeks away and the traditional emphasis for that celebration is either the need for peace amongst peoples or the multicultural nature of the kingdom of God.

I was not only thinking about is the forces that shape spirituality in general but the specific forces that shape spirituality for each of us as individuals.  After all it is these forces that determine how we interact with others both in and outside the kingdom of God and how we interact with our world.  

What has shaped my spirituality I was wondering?

Many of the forces are ones that you are already aware of – forces that shape all of us and the ways that we practice our faith – the families and neighbourhoods we grow up, our culture and how much we interact with people of other cultures, our education and the faith traditions or lack there of in which we grow up.  As well as that the life experiences we have had continue to shape and mold our views of faith and our spiritual practices.  However there are other forces too that shape our spirituality that we may think less about.  Here are some of the ones that I am most aware of in my life.     

  1. I often tell people that my theology was shaped in the refugee camps in Thailand.  The 2 short months that I spent on the Thai Cambodian in the mid 1980s had a huge impact on my view of the poor and my responsibility to people at the margins .  However it was only as I was thinking about the shaping of faith this week that it occurred to me that my acquiring Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which resulted in me leaving Mercy Ships was just as strong a shaping factor.  It was this experience that made me ask the question “How did Jesus spend his time on earth?” which started me looking at spiritual rhythms and the need for both balance and sustainability in my life.  It is this that has shaped my desire to be a part of a community in which spiritual disciples and the rhythm of morning and evening prayer is practiced.
  2. Living as an Australian in an American context after having worked with the poor in Africa, Asia and South America is another experience that has had a huge impact on the shaping my Christian faith.  I constantly struggle with the wealth of most Western Christians and the indifference to the plight of sisters and brothers in other parts of the world.  How would God have us live? is the question I continue to grapple with out of this struggle.  It has resulted in my work on shalom as well as my continued desire to raise issues of poverty, inequality and oppression to those who live comfortable lives. 
  3. Living in community with sisters and brothers from around the world as I did on board the Mercy Ship Anastasis and now in a much smaller community here in Seattle continues to mold and shape me.  Recognizing that God comes to us in community and that we cannot fully represent God unless we are involved in community is both a challenge and an encouragement to me   
  4. Reading books from a broad array of faith perspectives and viewpoints also continues to impact my faith.   I am constantly on the lookout for books that stretch my understanding of God and God’s purposes for those of us who follower Christ.  I hunger for a deeper understanding of God that I recognize more and more can only come through the eyes of those who see God differently than do.  
  5. Working in the garden.  As most of you who read my blog regularly know this is one experience that continues to grow and nurture my faith.  The gospels are coming alive for me in new ways as I interact with the story of God as it is revealed in the garden.    

So what are the forces that shape your spirituality?  I think it would be great to carry on a conversation about this so that we can become more aware of how we are all shaped by forces both within ourselves and in the world around us.  Would you be interested in participating in a synchroblog on this topic?  Who else would you like to hear from in this?

7 Responses

  1. Good post. Gets me thinking as well. My list would have to include:
    a. Six months in Calcutta and Bangladesh with YWAM.
    b. An analysis of the gospels, including writing all the sayings of Jesus on index cards and then creating an index of them.
    c. Keith Green and John Michael Talbot.
    d. A weekly time of listening to God’s spirit
    e. The discipline of teaching God’s word daily

  2. […] Christine Sine addresses this interesting question.  […]

  3. Steve,
    I appreciate you list though as I read it I am a little embarrassed by the fact that I left off my 12 years on the Mercy Ship Anastasis as well as my daily prayer and scripture reading as some of the other influences that have shaped my spirituality. Currently the quarterly retreats that Tom & I do as well as the journalling that I do on Sundays are other very formative influences for me.

  4. There are so many factors that have shaped and reshaped my spirituality over the years. Growing up in the Episcopal Church embedded my pours with a love of the liturgy, sense of awe, and reflective spirit. My attempts at atheism also profoundly shaped me – how can I hide from “the hound of heaven”? Becoming a walking ecumenical and then getting frustrated with “religion” so turning back to a season (it was at least a year) of reading Jesus’ words and reflecting on his works provided an amazing mid-course correction. Discovering Mennonites and a deep theology of peace and simplicity (at least in the theological works) was a tremendous gift, further tuning my spiritual compass. Then there were the years of panic disorder and depression which resulted in an unhealthy inward focus, eventually a death-to-self (for the most part), and new understanding of my total dependence on God for every good word and work. All along the way were friends, pastors, spiritual advisers, and, of course my wife, encouraging, challenging, supporting, and praying with and for me.

    Currently what is reshaping my spirituality is unemployment after almost 20 years of ministry. Who am I? What defines me? Where is God in this (now 9 months) time without steady work? I have learned even more to trust in God’s leading, understand the importance of relationships, and believe that God is in control of my past, present, and future. Perhaps at the moment I would describe my lesson as “The spirituality of joy in the midst of earthly uncertainty and the certainty of God’s faithfulness above it all!”

    • Andy much appreciate your honesty in this. It is amazing to see what shapes our spirituality yet very people think about it. I am glad that you are learning such positive lessons from your time of unemployment. It reminds me of the fact that early Celtic Christians would journey with no destination in mind because they saw every experience as an opportunity to both experience and encounter God. Unemployment is definitely a journey in which we can encounter God. Blessings

  5. We each are the creators of our current conditions. If you do not like something of your current condition one can not sit and wait for ‘fate’ or ‘God’ to answer. Look within for the answers and follow your heart.

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