What does it mean to be spiritual?

Today’s contributor explores how knowing our true identity as fundamentally spiritual helps us see beyond limitations, rise above fears, and experience our relation to God in a very real way.

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There are a lot of ways we might describe ourselves – having eyes of a certain color, descending from particular ancestors, working at a specific job. But to me, the most important description is this one: “I’m spiritual.”

I don’t just mean that I have an interest in spirituality. What I’ve learned in Christian Science is that being spiritual refers to everyone’s real identity. It’s not something we choose to be; it’s what we are. There isn’t one single individual you’ll ever meet who isn’t actually spiritual, because whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, we are each the expression of God, who is Spirit. And Spirit’s expression must be like Spirit – spiritual.

That concept might not feel as concrete as, say, having brown hair or being a certain height. But here’s something to think about. There are plenty of “intangible” qualities that each of us does easily identify with. For example, maybe you’re someone who’s always full of joy. You might identify as brave, kind, or strong. The qualities that make each of us what we are – qualities that express God, who is good – these are our very real, very tangible spiritual identity, which is sourced in God.

Knowing that this spiritual identity is actually what’s real, powerful, and significant about us is like armor. It helps us identify and reject what isn’t true about us. For example, if you know you can carry your 50-pound dog, then if someone called you wimpy, you’d dismiss the suggestion of wimpiness with total authority, based on what you know to be true.

Similarly – but in a much more profound, yet humble, way – knowing that we’re spiritual gives us a sense of authority. Being spiritual means we’re immune from the limitations of mortality – such as the overarching belief that our lives must be full of ups and downs, good and bad, health and illness, order and chaos.

That matters in a huge way. Greater freedom, health, and happiness are increasingly ours as we recognize that our identity really is spiritual. In my own life, the realization that I am not a sick, helpless mortal, but instead am the spiritual expression of God’s limitless love, has brought comfort and healing countless times. We are whole and safe because that’s the way God created us – and that can’t change.

In fact, being spiritual relates to anything we face. It’s our defense against feelings of inadequacy, purposelessness, anxiety, or hopelessness. It comes to our rescue even in the small moments. Like a time when someone made a thoughtless, insulting comment in an email to me. Right in the moment when I could feel an angry reaction welling up in me, the most simple thought stopped me: Since I’m spiritual, anger isn’t part of what I am.

It was like extinguishing a candle. As I accepted that one basic but powerful spiritual fact, the flame of angry reaction went out, and my thought about the person who had sent the email changed. It even occurred to me that he is spiritual, too. And as a result, I was able to respond in a way that was genuinely kind and constructive.

And here’s the best part about knowing that we’re spiritual. Far from just being a “quick fix” when we’re faced with a problem, it actually opens up a whole new world. It helps us see beyond limitations and rise above fears, and makes our relation to God feel so much more real. For me, understanding my spiritual identity has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. If you care to embrace it, it can be in yours, too.

Adapted from an article published in the Christian Science Sentinel’s online TeenConnect section, Jan. 25, 2018.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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