Church of the Resurrection Insights Blog
Isaiah 58:5-10 Amy Oden
I teach spiritual formation in a variety of settings, which means I teach spiritual practices. I love it and am grateful to walk alongside folks exploring their spiritual lives, folks who want to grow deeper.
But sometimes I worry that students will get the idea that growing deeper means adding a bunch of new spiritual practices to their already-overwhelmed lives. It’s easy to focus on getting all the steps of a spiritual practice just right or trying to be sure to “do enough” for it to count as spiritual. This moves very quickly from a genuine desire to grow deeper into “performing religion.”
“Performing religion” is a phrase that scholars use to describe going through the motions of our spiritual lives as though the point of it all is to go through the motions. When we “perform religion” our security is anchored in “doing it right” and “doing it to be seen doing it.” Spirituality becomes a performance we enact for ourselves and for others rather than an actually-lived-experience. We miss the chance to connect with the Holy One or to see fruit of that connection in our lives, such as kindness, gentleness, mercy, joy.
Isaiah 58 reminds us we are prone, when we want to grow deeper, to end up “performing religion.” We get the two confused so easily that Isaiah calls it out: the people displaying their fasting as self-affliction and showing off their mourning (v. 5).
For me, growing deeper usually looks like pausing to pay attention to what God is already up to in my life, rather than adding on more religious stuff. Where is new life blossoming, however tentatively? What holy invitations seem to nudge me? What is dying in my life that I need to let go?
What is drawing you deeper? Pause and pay attention.