Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Your Word?

My 16-going-on-25-year-old  daughter and I were having a discussion yesterday about the words...


She was saying, "Well, so and so is the most religious person I know." 
And I was saying, "Well, I wouldn't say religious.  Religious to me means following the rules of a certain religion rather than just being a devout Christian."

More than once I used the word "spiritual" and she called me on it.  ("You're saying 'spiritual' is more Christian than 'religious?'"  Touche', my dear.)  And at this point, I will admit, I didn't know what the heck I was saying or how to make my point! 
I finally said, "I think you and I are saying the same thing but getting caught up in the semantics of the language." 
And that's how I left it. 
Because I was getting muddled. 
Mixed up. 
And I wanted to make sure that the point I was trying to make didn't get lost in my inability to communicate.  That my point wasn't going to forever skew her vision of herself - or let's face it, her thoughts about her deluded Mama.  I'm not ashamed to admit it!

I awoke this morning, still thinking about this exchange.  I wanted to clarify for myself and for the sake of giving my daughter an accurate picture of her role as His daughter, for once more concerned about her self-view than my interest in winning an argument.  So I did what any faithful woman would do.  I pulled out my dictionary. :)

Religiousrelating to belief in religion, the teaching of religion, or the practice of a religion; believing in and showing devotion or reverence for a deity or deities

Christianbased on or relating to a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah, and acceptance of his teachings, contained in the Gospels; somebody whose religion is Christianity (You got me there, Colleen!)

Spiritualrelating to religious or sacred things rather than worldly things; relating to the soul or spirit, usually in contrast to material things

After reading all of these definitions, I knew my answer.  I knew my point.
None of them embraced all that I was trying to say.
Because, the thing is, you can still get caught up in semantics.

Religious is a great description but does not only pertain to Christian faiths.  What about Judaism? Islam?  Buddhism?  When using the word religion, you are encompassing all organized faiths, not just the ones who believe in Christ?  (And when, by the way, did the word "religious" develop a slightly negative connotation in my own mind?  Wow...)

Christian is a great description but there are still the semantics that I was arguing yesterday about it being a state of mind or a philosophical principle rather than a "religion."  (Colleen's stance.)  We were both right.  Still there are the challenges of talking "Christianity" with those people who think their faith is the only Christian one.  (My dad used to say "Catholic Christian" as a way to bridge the ecumenical gap and a road to understanding between Protestants and Catholics, many of the former thinking that Catholics aren't Christian.  Which, of course, never ceases to amaze me.)  Even as I type this, I notice I'm getting agitated and a little short of breath.  Clearly, there is a kind of frustration here for me in the human view of this word (and I'm sure I'm not alone).  With that frustration, then, the word that is supposed to encompass all of Jesus's teachings becomes fodder for argument and loving your neighbor as yourself gives way to proving a point.  Not the outcome He was hoping for, I'd imagine.

The word spiritual brings yet another issue.  Sure it can embrace The Holy Spirit, the religious and the higher thinking of the world, but it can also embrace the occult and the mystics, who don't always follow a Christian viewpoint.


After an hour or so of thinking and cogitating and researching and feeling the little pricklies of hair on my neck stand on end in frustration, it hit me.
I knew the answer.
At least the answer I want to share with my daughter.
And the answer by which I hope she can live her life.

Christlike is my word.

Nothing more.  Nothing human.  Nothing argumentative or nitpicky or self-righteous.
I want to be Christlike.
I want feel love for all humanity and frustration slip away.
I want to discard judgment and feeling sanctimonious.
I don't want to study words and their meanings.
I want to study His life.
His life of good and teaching and forgiveness and acceptance.

Yes, Christlike.
That is the word.
That is the goal.

{Have avoided, since I began this journal 2 1/2 years ago,
bringing these sometimes contentious viewpoints into question. 
I want this to be a space of His words and His messages
permeating my very flawed human ones.
I hope you understand the spirit by which this was written. 
Would love to know your "word." 
Please feel free to share in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.}


  1. Hi C,

    I love your word. Christlike is beautiful.

    For me, I would add "call to holiness" to its essence. It took me a long time to realize that it did me no good to try and imitate his goodness, asking for and giving forgiveness, seeking and offering acceptance, if I didn't have a proper idea of what he demanded of me, and everyone, in holiness.

    God bless.


    1. Thanks, Erin, for your insight. "Call to holiness" is awesome - and scary - and daunting all at once. You're a better woman than I! Thanks for sharing. C.

  2. I love your word, C! Excellent! In last night's Bible Study (which Jack and Sam sat in on for the first time), we began the process of studying all the references to Christ's characteristics. I told them that I thought if we were going to strive to "do what He would do" when making decisions, it would probably help to know who He was, what characteristics He embodied. It was really cool to watch them participate.

    Here is my take on your word dilemma - you can be religious without being spiritual and religious without being Christian; you can be spiritual without being either religious or Christian; and you can call yourself a Christian and be none of the above. Quite a conundrum.

    For me, I simply had issues with organized religion (ALL of them) for a long time. During that period of my life, when someone asked me what church I went to, I responded, "I was raised Catholic, but now I just consider myself to be a person of Faith. A child of God." And that was true. My relationship and connection to God never wavered - not once through my life. Religions run by men - well, that was another issue. But, now that I am older, I must say, I like your word. Christ-like. That pretty much sums it up for me. Well done!

    1. Thanks Liz. There's a book of Daddy's which I keep on my desk, "Christlikeness," and though I often forget it's there (it's in a stack), I think it's permeated my thinking. Thanks for sharing.