A few weeks ago blogger Linda Myers wrote Sliding into home, churchwise about her decision to become involved again in a church community after thirty years away. RJ Walters makes no bones about his religiosity in both his primary blog, RJ's Corner, and his postings at Red Letter Living. Good friend, Galen Pearl, writes about her spirituality quite frequently on 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place.
I'm sure I am missing references to other bloggers I read on a regular basis, but you get the point: being spiritual or religious is a part of a retirement lifestyle for many. Maybe it is the increasing awareness of our own mortality that causes folks to think about such matters. Maybe it is the social aspects of finding like-minded people to spend time with. Like Linda, maybe it is just an awareness of something missing that once was an important part of life.
I have no intention of preaching in this post. I have firm beliefs that I would be more than happy to share with you in a different setting, but this isn't the place. My faith teaches me to be tolerant and loving of others who have found a different path to meaning. While I believe they are missing the boat quite badly, being aggressive and pushy on my part will accomplish nothing. One of the great disappointments I have is the willingness of too many to offend and drive away others rather than actually follow what they profess: love your neighbors and enemies. Sometimes organized religion can be be its own worst enemy.
So, all I want to do is lay out a few of the reasons I have found a deepened faith life to be important:
- A reminder of the precious nature of life. Any religious tradition I am aware of stresses the unique benefit we have over all the other animals on earth: a conscious awareness of our life and its importance. We don't just breath, eat, and sleep. We have the ability to use our talents and desires to make the most of our life. I believe I have been created to accomplish something. I may not always be sure what that something is, but I believe it exists.
- A reminder that my time on earth is short. When we are young, time has no real meaning to us. As we progress through our adult years, life tends to fill up with the process of living. Time for reflection is often limited. But, at some point, our mortality stares us in the face. The time to accomplish what we are here for begins to dwindle down. While I believe I have an eternal life ahead of me, I am responsible for making the most of my time on earth, and that time is gone all too quickly.
- A reminder that I'm part of a larger whole. Particularly in a culture that praises the individual, determines one's worth by success in the business world, or the size of one's bank balance, it is important to have a wake up call. We are a very small part of a very large universe. When we die, most of the other 7 billion people on earth won't notice. If I didn't believe I am part of a larger cosmic plan and am connected to my creator, then it would be easy to ask, "what's the point?"
- A reminder that I'm unique. How can I be a tiny part of a larger whole, and also be unique? Simple: I was created that way. Everything on earth is unique in some way or another. There is no one else who has the exact makeup that I do, and no one ever will.
- A reminder to be loving and giving. The primary premise of my religious beliefs is the need to love others as I love myself (as a creation of God). I am here to reflect the love of my creator to others. I am here to give of myself to others to make their lives more complete and satisfying.
Important: I have not achieved even a modicum of success in any of these five areas. I am a work in progress with many more failures than achievements, and will be until the day I die. But, I can be satisfied if I accept my shortcomings, know what I am trying to do, and never stop moving forward in that quest.
My spiritual life gives me hope, without which, I would be lost indeed.