Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirit in Practice: An Adult Program for Developing A Regular Practice of the Spirit

The Shape of the Spirit

After many years of being out of shape, he decided it was time to do something about the state of his body. With great excitement and enthusiasm, he went to the local gym, got a membership, and began a circuit-training routine. He felt good. And he kept at it, going to the gym several times a week.

For the first couple of months. And then a business trip intervened. And then he had to work late. And then it was one of his kids’ birthday. And soon he was hardly going at all. Then he could barely remember the last time he’d gone.

So he went back to the gym and asked the trainer for a suggestion. “Have you tried finding a workout buddy?” she asked. He hadn’t. But the idea made sense, so he talked to a couple of his friends who went to the same gym and found one who agreed to “buddy up.”

The two went to the gym together sometimes, but often they continued working out alone. But they checked in with each other. They talked about the difficulties they were having staying motivated; they celebrated each others’ achievements. They gave each other ideas to “spice things up.” They commiserated over aches and pains. And soon he could hardly imagine not working out. His “buddy” helped keep him moving.

After a few years of being back in shape, he decided it was time to do something about the state of his spirit. With great excitement and enthusiasm, he went to his local Unitarian Universalist congregation, became a member, and began taking part in small group ministries and adult education opportunities. And he felt good.

For the first couple of years. But then the freedom and diversity of the congregation weren’t new to him anymore, and the Principles and Sources that had once excited him were now taken for granted. He felt he’d reached a bit of a plateau on his spiritual path and that he needed some new energy and direction. So he went to the minister and presented his dilemma to her. In the conversation, he happened to mention that he worked out regularly and had a workout buddy.

“Workout buddy,” the minister said. “What a nice idea. Have you ever thought of finding a ‘spiritual buddy’—one who can be a companion and support to you in your spiritual practices? Someone who can challenge you, support you, and help you stay focused like your workout buddy does?”

“A spiritual buddy!” he said. “Just what I need!” That night he called up his friend, the fellow who had introduced him to Unitarian Universalism. And they became spiritual buddies. They met for coffee a couple times per month to discuss their spiritual practices and their theological ideas. Sometimes they meditated together. Once, on the solstice, they hiked up a hill to see the sun rise. Another time they both read the same book about evolution and spirituality. Their friendship grew deeper, and their spiritual lives flourished. He participated in his Unitarian Universalist congregation with renewed excitement, knowing he was on a rich spiritual path and delighting in the company of fellow travelers.