When considering spiritual goals, it is important to begin by distinguishing between religion and spirit. Religion is the system that we embrace in pursuit of or in response to our beliefs. Spirit is that intangible, internal reality that defines the essence of who we are as humans. We should never forget that we are not bodies that happen to have spirits inside; rather we are spirits that happen to have bodies that we wear for a few years. That is why our spirits affect our bodies much more than our bodies affect our spirits. When our spirits are low or weak, our physical capacity is diminished and we are vulnerable to physical ailments. But when our bodies are weak, it is completely possible to have strong and vibrant spirits. We need to set goals for our spiritual strength and capacity to undergird and complement the other areas of our lives.
Our fears, our stresses, our hopes, our self-esteem, our patience, our vision, our temperaments, our joys and our sorrows are all examples of areas of our lives related to our spirits. Our religious lives should enhance our spiritual lives and contribute to our development of our spiritual strength. But everyone – regardless of our religious views – has a spirit. A body without a spirit is a corpse. A spirit can live eternally long after our bodies have ceased to function. When we get to heaven, our spirits will get new bodies. We should not neglect our spirits.
There are many different ways to build upon one’s spiritual foundation. Our spiritual goals should describe what kind of spiritual character we would like to possess. In many ways our spiritual “what” comes very close to our spiritual “how.” This is somewhat different than the other categories of our lives. For instance one may have the spiritual goal to be a more prayerful person. Prayer is the means by which humans remain in contact with the Divine. The benefits of prayer include securing more certainty about life’s purpose, approaching decisions with Divine assistance, maintaining a greater sense of humility and possibility by remaining connected to Divine power, submitting to Divine will rather than only pursuing one’s own desires. These are all valuable “whats” to desire. But what is interesting about the spiritual goal of prayer is that the “how” to reach the “what” includes prayer itself. There are things we can do to become a more prayerful - like reading books about prayer, listening to talks about prayer and hearing the prayers of others. But the way to become a more prayerful person necessarily requires participating on prayer itself. One cannot simply have more money if one’s goal is to have more money. But if we want more prayerful lives we can get there by simply including more prayer in our lives.
Having spiritual goals will make the difference between lives with success and lives with quality. It was Jesus who said that it does it matter if we gain the world and lose our souls.
Tomorrow – Analyzing our Goals