On Not Adding Spiritual Practice to Your To-Do List

A Spiritual Life

Most books on the spiritual life almost inevitably leave readers feeling like we just have one more thing to do. I work actively against this. The last thing those caught in the demands of family life need is one more exercise to implement, one more task to execute, one more ideal to live up to. Parenting is guilt-inducing enough without this. If anything, I want to lighten the load by offering a child-friendly, caregiver-supportive, non-elitist understanding of faith and theology. I want people to see what they are already doing and do these practices with greater intentionality, awareness, respect, care, and reflection. Nobody excels in all practices. Everyone has to start somewhere. So I pick favorites and invite others to do the same. The practices I name–pondering, playing, reading, loving, doing justice, blessing, and letting go–are illustrative, not exemplary. They are named to provoke imagination about one’s own life and the grace to see God within it when we are honest about the difficulties and attentive to the gifts.

– Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, “Theological Protest and the Spiritual Life” in A Spiritual Life: Perspectives from Poets, Prophets, and Preachers, edited by Allan Hugh Cole Jr. (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).

This quote applies equally well to parents and non-parents, to those facing the demands of family life or (more broadly) daily life whatever those demands might be.

Instead of adding one more thing, what practices are you already doing? What would it mean for you to do these with “greater intentionality, awareness, respect, care, and reflection”?



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6 replies

  1. What a beautiful quote, April! I practice the discipline of prayer throughout my day…as part of my everyday activities. Brother Lawrence’s book “Practice the Presence of God” so beautifully taught me this way of living.

  2. I’ve been going outside in the early morning to just enjoy the sounds of birds without all the city noises. Just enjoying it is a kind of meditation on God’s goodness and his creative heart. I also love just chattering thoughts to God in my heart throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll feel so aware of God in just sharing with him funny little details; it feels like we share laughter in spirit. 🙂

  3. I love this, too. A while back I was asked to reflect on work-life balance as a pastor and mother of two young boys. I realized that at this stage in my life, one of my main daily spiritual practices was praying and singing with my children at bedtime. Sort of a form of spiritual and parental multi-tasking, I guess. But I don’t feel guilty about it or like it’s short-changing my spiritual disciplines. It is not all I do, but it is definitely my most consistent. It is a significant and often profound time of daily reflection, prayer and praise. The season of our lives are constantly changing, and I’m grateful for this season and this opportunity to practice my faith with my family.

    • Thanks, Wendy. I’m encouraged by the way you share spiritual practice with your children–not at all short-changing spiritual discipline, but enriching it. Those are precious moments and a precious stage of life.