The old year is coming to a close, and a new one is beginning. For me, this is a time of reflection on what has come before, and meditation on what new life might be springing forth in the months to come. As I engage in this year-end reflection, here are three spiritual practices that are helping me to go deeper with God:
1. Acknowledge that I am going to die. Despite our culture’s hesitance to talk about death and dying, I have found that regularly meditating on my own mortality is one of the most powerful spiritual practices. Simply recognizing that I am going to die is profoundly clarifying.
Rather than frightening me, facing my own death brings deep peace, and a strange sort of joy. When I acknowledge death, I find it easier to let go of my own desires and will. I’m not in control.
When I accept my finite nature, I am freed to be simply human. I’m no longer afraid to see how child-like and dependent I am. I don’t have to protect myself.
2. Stop trying to win. In the face of death, there are no winners and losers – just mortals. Living in this awareness, I am free from the compulsion to compete and compare myself to others. Every single creature on earth shares the same fate. We’re made of dust, and we’ll be dust again.
Yet even amid the dust and confusion, it’s a beautiful world. There is an astounding love that breathes into our finite world, an abundance that none of my efforts can make bigger or smaller. Nothing really matters; everything matters. Life is a gift.
3. Live in the gift. Accepting life as a pure gift, I am released from the compulsion to see my desires fulfilled. I’m free to practice gratitude for everything that comes my way, to say thy will be done in the face of circumstances that run contrary to my expectations.
Yet, this life of surrender is not one of mere passive compliance with my fate. I participate in a life of co-creation with the amazing Spirit that restores me and heals the world. I am invited to cooperate with ceaseless wonders and new beginnings.
Three Practices, One Purpose
These three spiritual practices – or postures – fit together as part of a cycle. Each one strengthens and reinforces the others. Facing my own limitations and mortality helps me to perceive the silliness of all my human competitiveness and striving. As I let go of the need to win, I can embrace all of life as a pure gift from God rather than a chance to prove myself. And because life is an unearned gift, I begin to shed my fear of losing it.
Death is less terrifying when I recognize that I’m not entitled to life in the first place. Life is more joyful when I’m willing to give it away. Life or death, it’s all blessing in Christ.
These are some spiritual practices I hope to cultivate as we enter this new year. How about you?