Sunday, February 13, 2011

Joy of living vs. Spiritual failure to thrive

"Failure to thrive" is usually a term heard from pediatricians about a new child who is not growing in the way we would normally expect, or isn't showing the expected amount of vigor and health. Terrifying for the parents, I expect. Here I'm using it only as an analogy: living things are expected to thrive if they're healthy. I've had plants that "failed to thrive" -- in this case, it's because I'm basically inept at caring for some kinds of plants. If a living thing isn't thriving, we know there's a problem; it's life's natural tendency to thrive.

A thriving spirituality brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness -- you've heard it before. The list goes on. The highest form of "morality" is love, and a large part of love is delight. Love causes us to have joy in life. I'm not talking about the awful times when something goes wrong, when love is betrayed or when someone we love dies. I'm talking about the times of growth that fill the long seasons of our lives. There's a connection between the spiritual and the emotional. (Add one more to the reasons I distrust Puritanism.) A religion without love is a religion that is failing to thrive, and is causing its people to do the same.

I also wonder how exactly we can best help people who are failing to thrive spiritually and emotionally. Many come from homes where "dysfunctional" is far too polite a description; others come from homes that are just emotionally cold or empty. People in these circumstances are often shut out by those from healthier places. But somewhere -- and I am fishing for suggestions and searching my mind -- somewhere there is a way to help. Somewhere there is a way to set up an incubator for spiritual health, and to set up the right circumstances so someone can thrive. Can we find it?

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