Welcome to Practice@People’s, the new monthly blog post from the PUMC Discipleship team! Look for a new post each month in which we will explore new ways of growing in our faith. Our God loves creativity and diversity, so we hope to share many different examples of what it looks like to grow in relationship with God.

We use the word “practice,” because when it comes to spiritual development, there is always more to explore, more ways to grow. This growth doesn’t just happen automatically; it takes practice.

The good news is that our God doesn’t demand perfection! Spiritual Director and author Linda Douty says, “God is more interested in our growth than our guilt.”

Our God is a God of new beginnings:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

And so we are invited into relationship, again and again, despite any faltering. On a less serious note, Dwight from the T.V. series The Office has some wisdom to offer us as well:

The promise that I don’t have to be perfect to draw close to God is comforting to me. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when my faith feels strong, and times when it doesn’t. Sometimes the ebb and flow of my relationship with God is connected to events in my life—such as a “spiritual high” after a mission trip, or a feeling of spiritual distance during a time of disappointment, loss, or stress. But sometimes, the ups and downs just seem to come out of nowhere. In any case, spiritual practices enable growth through these inevitable seasons of faith.

This makes me think of my experience in training for a couple of marathons. The race itself is just one day, but the training takes months. I literally have to “practice” running long distances until I’m able to run the whole 26.2 miles. During this training, there are some days when I feel great. My stride is smooth, the weather’s nice. Some days though, I just don’t feel like running. My body feels slow and tired. Or, it’s gray and raining. But, the prospect of the upcoming race encourages me to keep at it and try anyhow. The idea of practicing means that I don’t beat myself up for not wanting to run—I acknowledge my resistance, and then give it another shot. When I do, I trust that sometime soon I’ll feel good on a run again.

I think that spiritual practices are like this, too. Having a regular practice helps weather through the ups and the downs of our spiritual life. It gives us something to fall back on when we’re not sure where else to turn. These practices are not meant to induce guilt, but create opportunity for growth. As we practice connecting with God, we grow a deeper base to carry us through—not for reaching perfection, but for a lifetime of growing in God’s love.

If the idea of having a regular spiritual practice is new to you, you’re not alone! Many of us have grown up without guidance in this area. I hope that this blog will be an encouragement for you; a resource for exploration and discovery of new ways to connect with God, grow in your faith, and live out this faith in the world.

In Christ,

Kate Sweet

Pastor of Spiritual Care & Development