My body operates within the physical world with physical mobility and five physical senses. My soul operates within its own psychic domain, both sensing and affecting its self through its mind, will and emotions. My soul also directs my body. What is true about my spirit?
I'm going to speak very personally for a moment. Somewhere between age 7 and 17, I became born from above. I can't be more specific, partly because I grew up Episcopalian. (No problem - at least it did happen, right?) Another reason I can't tell you precisely when my human spirit began to function is because no one explained it to me at the time. I came to this understanding initially through books. Since then I have often (okay, sometimes) felt, recognized and employed my newborn, spiritual faculties - although I must confess I haven't always kept in top spiritual shape as well as I should have. (What has helped the most is when I was able to find good 'workout partners'.) Like a body, a healthy, active and functional spirit requires good, regular exercise.
So what is this exercise? Touching God. Feeling God. Seeing God. Hearing God. (Sometimes, perhaps even smelling God and tasting God. Seriously.) But most fundamentally - Finding God. Actively, directly, spiritually experiencing God. (Please do not take "spiritually experiencing" to be a redundancy. It is not. For example, Job's terrifying experience of God was immanently physical. So was Peter's at the Transfiguration, because sound waves are physical.)
Of course I believe all devout christians KNOW the Lord although some understand this process in different terms. On the other hand, some who touched him once have been pretending ever since. And many of those who get to the point of having simple direct interactions with God have to get there despite many institutional teachings that spiritual pursuit should be primarily psychic.
Here lies the chief problem with christendom. The problem is not religiousness. It is soulishness.
For too many believers, approaching God (which includes prayer) is merely thinking or wanting or feeling our way to the Lord. Yes, prayer does begin from our souls and that is just fine. But intellect, volition and emotion are faculties of the soul. Trusting God to read our thoughts is one way communion (unless we imagine He speaks in our minds, which is rightfully terrifying and should most properly be discouraged). This method leaves trusting and following God to be, essentially, a process of guesswork and superstition. Even more significantly, by keeping our "spiritual life" in the psychic realm, we remain in control of the process. Equating spirit with soul leaves us trying to locate, hear and follow God exclusively via our self.
No wonder typical christianity doesn't "work". Most christians are using the wrong tool for the job! On the other hand, many of us do manage to be genuintely spiritual some of the time, even though some of the time it happens partly by accident!
At a moment of true conversion, all christian believers encounter the Divine One directly. (Granted, sometimes, the experience is very faint, but it is universal.) Sadly, however, many christians are mis-trained to "mature" from that spiritual experience to prefer brainy, bootstrappy or goosebumpy methods for drawing near to God. True intimacy fades quickly when the soul stays in charge, but a solution is frequently found by those who learn to truly get past their self and actually embrace God.
Whether such fortunate and faithful souls realize it or not, THAT (and perhaps only that) was their spiritual spirit, properly performing its God intended function.
To be continued...