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In a recent editorial planning meeting, our conversation turned to the phrase spiritual vitality. We all agreed the concept is extremely important for church leaders. (In fact, we decided to make it next issue's theme.) After kicking it around for a while, however, we realized that the elusive word for many of us is the second.
Why? Somehow by dint of hard work and discipline we manage to be spiritual-within acceptable limits. We schedule prayer time, attend church functions, carry out the duties of good Christian soldiers.
But spiritual with vitality? Spirituality that we enjoy and get excited about? That's another question.
Sometimes we mistakenly resign ourselves to the loss of excitement as an inevitable consequence of growing old. Vitality is associated with youthful energy. George Bernard Shaw said the ideal is "to combine the experience of an old hand with the vitality of a young one."
But the word has a deeper meaning associated with growth and longevity: the capacity, in the case of spiritual matters, to remain enthused long after the initial ecstasy of rebirth has gone. Vitality in its truest sense means life-the more vitality, the more we know life is being lived in its fullness.
There's the rub. Something about the modern pace of living squeezes vitality out of spirituality, and most of us are left panting with the question: How does one retain it?
In some ways, church life accentuates the problem. By thirsting after full participation, we schedule ourselves to the hilt. We leave no time for anything serendipitous. We slavishly fill every time slot in our date book, and the only break we get is a cancelled appointment, which is really no break at all because of the frustrations of rescheduling.
We neglect to space our lives with "broad margins," the spaces around our activity in which Henry David Thoreau said we should live most of our lives. Too often our margins are so narrow we type ourselves right off the page.
I sat recently with a friend who had lost his vitality: ...