Reading a review of a book about America’s faltering infrastructure, I thought of how spirituality is our infrastructure—how necessary it is to keep our lives together, to make sense of things, to provide a path, and how little attention is paid to it by so many, just like the bridges and schools and roadways we take for granted and fail to attend and maintain.
I remembered Evelyn Underhill’s understanding in The House of the Soul that our spiritual house never stands alone, but as part of something larger, the “City of God.” We must tend to it, remembering the role it plays in our urban spiritual environment:
Christian spirituality…insists that we do not inhabit detached residences, but are parts of a vast spiritual organism; that even the most hidden life is never lived for itself alone. Our soul’s house forms part of the vast City of God…it shares all the obligations and advantages belonging to the city as a whole. … The way we maintain and use it must have reference to our civic responsibilities. …
So into all the affairs of the little house there should enter a certain sense of the city, and beyond this of the infinite world in which the city stands: some awe-struck memory of our double situation, at once so homely and so mysterious. We must each maintain unimpaired our unique relation with God, yet without forgetting our intimate contact with the rest of the city, or the mesh of invisible life which binds all the inhabitants in one.
So we maintain our spiritual house, in the apostle Paul’s words, our “temple of the Spirit,” not for ourselves alone, but for our neighbors and the citizens of the whole City of God.
Recently I was reminded of what I once asked volunteers at AIDS trainings:
What in your belief system prompts you to volunteer?
What is your spiritual community?
To me this was key to discerning their core spirituality, even apart from religion, a spiritual base line that might serve as an infrastructure for all they were about to face.
I encouraged them to be creative when it came to defining their spiritual communities. One woman had an ah-hah when she realized hers was a group of women with whom she had played tennis for years. “We shared births and deaths, marriages and divorces,” she explained, “Supporting one another through them all.”
Recognizing and maintaining and building our spiritual infrastructure is necessary, not a superfluous “bonus” of life.
At the conclusion of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described this spiritual infrastructure. He said that one who hears his teachings and does them will be like one who builds a house on rock as opposed to another who builds a house on sand. The first house remains standing in the storm and flood, but the second is swept away.
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