Spiritual Practices Clear Up The Blockage
Rev. Patricia Stetson-Warning
April 14, 2021
Sometimes our spiritual life gets dammed up
I am writing this as Western Nebraska (where I live) is digging out from the depths of the weekend snowstorm. Thankfully the temperatures have been such that the snow is both settling and melting. Today it is near 50 degrees, so the water is beginning to run. But I noticed that it was pooling in my drive entrance, and the pool was getting deeper and wider. There was plenty of water, but it was dammed up, not able to flow since the gutters contained both deep snow and ice. The pool would be a large patch of ice by morning.
So, I set out to tackle the difficult task of chipping away the ice and snow from the gutter and pushing it into the street. After I had gone about 10 yards, I noticed that my hard work was bearing “fruit.” The water had begun to flow in a stream into the space that I created.
It came to mind that the spirit life is like that. Sometimes it is all dammed up. The Spirit is ever present, but there is no flow through our lives. Flow can get blocked, unable to penetrate what has grown cold and hard in our inner lives.
What is damming up the flow of God’s Spirit in your life right now? Is it busyness? Your judgments? Lack of forgiveness? Compulsive or addictive activities? Complacency in prayer? Has your heart grown cold, and iced up to compassion, mercy, kindness, gentleness, self-control, patience, intimacy, or love? These are not things you can easily remedy with some self-help book. It takes Spirit work.
Spiritual practices can create an opening
That is where spiritual practices come in. They can assist you in opening to the grace of the flow of God’s Spirit for God to do the work. Spiritual practices take effort, you have to show up. And you might have to slow down. Some require that you cease, and put effort into being quiet. Some help you listen rather than doing all the talking.
Spiritual practices are what you do to open yourself to the flow, to make space for the flow of the spirit. There are so many different ways to pray! Consider this short list . . .
- your daily devotional prayer time
- a prayer of Examen
- Lectio Divina
- Centering Prayer
- contemplative walking
- walking a labyrinth
- prayers of forgiveness
- doing the inner work of growing in self-knowledge through the Enneagram or dream work.
The purpose is to create the space to open yourself to the flow of God’s Spirit through and in us.
Spiritual practices are the effort you make to open that space so the healing flow of God’s presence may indeed flow, like a stream, like streams of living water Jesus speaks of in John 4. To open yourself to God as Jesus did as he opened his arms on the cross.
The Spirit does the work but we have to show up
Just as I could not make the water flow out of the pool collecting in my drive, no one can make the Spirit flow in their lives. What you–and all of us–can do, though, is create the opportunity and open space for the flow to stream through you.
The hard work that I put into making an opening for the flow was worth it. The snowmelt pools went down and began to flow freely down the street. Likewise, the time and effort that I have given over the past 20 years to grow in knowledge and discipline of spiritual practices have increased the flow of God’s Spirit in my life. Anyone who knew me 20 years ago and knows me now can bear witness to the flow of God’s Spirit.
As much as you and everyone else needs it, the flow of God’s Spirit is nothing you can control, manage, start and stop. But you can recognize and notice when the flow has dammed up. Perhaps that is when a Spiritual Director can be most helpful.
Those of us who are trained as spiritual directors learn a variety of spiritual practices that open us to God. Practices that create the space for flow. Our desire is for more and more flow of God’s Spirit through you and me, and others we encounter.
All this reminds me of a verse from a praise song that says, “Flow, River, Flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy” from the praise song “Shine, Jesus, Shine” by Graham Kendrick. You can click on this link and it will take you to a YouTube video for Shine, Jesus, Shine.
May you receive every grace you need to attend to the flow in your spirit life.
Rev. Patricia Stetson-Warning, Certified Spiritual Director
Pilgrimage to Shalom Ministries
Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Gordon, NE