Nov 20 2019
Our spiritual needs emerge developmentally innervated with our physical and psychological needs. Our spiritual needs are felt as “Yearnings of the Soul” that require our advancing attention lest we lapse into a “spiritual failure to thrive”.
Failure to thrive is the name given to the condition of an infant who doesn’t adequately physically grow because she/he doesn’t receive sufficient human touch, warmth, and affectionate attention, even though she or he receives quite adequate food and hydration.
I think we can use the same concept of failure to thrive to describe a maturing adult who either neglects, or in some way is blocked from meeting her/his spiritual needs. These unfortunate folks are spiritually starved, although they may be quite satiated in every other life dimension.
A need is a requirement of the organism; failure to address a need always begets some form of pain. As I survey the lives of maturing adults, I find that I can aptly use the term “spiritual failure to thrive” to describe a number of them. We enter into a spiritual failure to thrive condition when we neglect our spiritual needs.
Here is the first of 10 spiritual needs for maturing adults that I have been able to assemble from my spiritual gerontology “gleanings”.
1. Find a spiritual guide or mentor.
The need for an active spiritual model in our lives is clear. Our soul seeks guidance, or at least guideposts upon which we can “take its spiritual bearings”.
All of our greatest spiritual personalities, including the saints who have been recognized as spiritual giants, as well as the multitude of ordinary folks (like us) who strive to discover God’s direction, and who, at times are even able to, ever so temporarily discover God’s kingdom while still living in this world, all attest to having spiritual guides who show them a way, or at least held up a lantern, so they can better find their way to God.
Who are your spiritual guides?
Perhaps there are certain people who serve as spiritual beacons for you?
Perhaps there are authors who challenge you to spiritual depth?
Perhaps you look to the Holy Spirit as your primary source for spiritual guidance, as suggested by St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist Congregation.
Perhaps you avail yourself of the guidance of a trained spiritual director to help you discern your soul food?
Spiritual directors don’t chart your spiritual course for you, indeed they don’t “direct” you at all. They are trained in an essential competency of guidance – they know how to ask the right questions, the kind of question that has innate power to illuminate a “spiritual space” in you that was perhaps formerly unlit.
Have you ever wondered about the connection between aging and faith? Check-out our online JOHNSON Institute Course 100: “What is Spiritual Gerontology?”
Stay light and be bright in Christ Jesus,
Richard P. Johnson, PhD