Spiritual disciplines are meant for the early morning or late into the evening, right? To be practiced before breakfast and work, or after dinner has been cleaned up and the kids are off to bed?
Understandably, many of us tend to link the concept of spiritual disciplines with a daily devotion time, which—for many—tends to take place at the start or close of the day.
This understanding limits the reach of spiritual disciplines to a small portion of each day. In doing so, we section off the day into chunks.
Mornings are for “quiet time” (thus, the spiritual piece), the middle of the day is for work, and evenings are for family and relaxation (relationships and rest).
This approach suggests that our lives are not holistic, but segmented—divided.
Hugh Whelchel calls this tendency of dividing the sacred and secular “one of the great sins of the American Church in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” He reminds us that all of life is spiritual. Nothing is merely secular.
When we recognize that the sacred/secular divide is a fallacy, my above question receives a hearty “No.” Spiritual disciplines are meant for the holistic, all-day-every-day life.
This means they can be (and are meant to be) integrated into the workplace—no matter where you work.
Spiritual disciplines are not limited to a certain population of believers. They are not reserved for the “extra spiritual,” or the severely struggling.
They are just as much for pastors as they are for plumbers. They are for healing addicts, healthy caregivers, busy schoolteachers, and stay-at-home parents. Baristas, cashiers, architects, CEOs…you get the picture.
In her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun illuminates the church’s use of spiritual disciplines throughout history:
From its beginning the church linked the desire for more of God to intentional practices, relationships and experiences that gave people space in their lives to ‘keep company with Jesus.’
This collision and cooperation between desire and discipline are central to understanding the value of such practices. Without desire, discipline would be driven mainly by grit or legalism.
Yet, without discipline, desire remains only a fleeting vapor—something intangible, and therefore unattainable. When discipline is fueled by desire and desire pursued through discipline, actual, noticeable growth can occur. More specifically, in the words of Calhoun, we can better “keep company with Jesus.”
Returning to the holistic nature of the Christian life, keeping company with Jesus ought to be sustained throughout the day. He is not companion and Lord only when a Bible is open in the lap. We don’t leave him on the shelf with our devotional books and prayer journal.
Even when we are not cognizant of his presence, he is always with us. Spiritual disciplines help us to grow in a particular area of the faith, and to become more aware of God’s presence and our dependence upon him throughout each day.
In other words, the outcomes are specific (e.g., freedom from an addiction to busyness), as well as broad (e.g., growing awareness of God’s continual presence and dependence upon him).
Living a consistent, holistic life in which everything is spiritual requires intentionally connecting the dots between the various spheres of our lives. Creatively look for ways to do this, weaving practices into your daily workflow. May you bear much fruit!