Three Dimensions of Spirituality

The spiritual life is a reaching out to our innermost self, to our fellow human and to our God.

— Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

Something I read yesterday reminded me of a teachers’ inservice I attended last Fall. The guest speaker was Michael Carotta and he briefly described three dimensions of spirituality:

  • Vertical — the connection between you and God. This dimension follows naturally from Jesus’ commandment to love God first with your whole heart, mind, and soul. A person strong in this dimension is very comfortable with worship, prayer, and other religious-related things and activities.

  • Horizontal or outward — the connection between you and other people. This dimension follows naturally from Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. A person strong in this dimension is into helping others, community service, social justice, good works, etc.

  • Inward — the connection with yourself, the connection to your soul, the spark of divinity that is your essence. A person strong in this dimension is a little harder to identify, but they tend to find strength, energy, confidence, and peace from within, drawing from an inner source, often unknown to be deeply rooted in God.

Like having a preference for either a left or right hand, you have a preferred dimension of spirituality. But unlike handedness, there must be some kind of balance between the three dimensions. Too much dependence or channeling of energy in one dimension (or two) does not make a balanced, well-rounded, integrated person.

Since you are unique, you must find your own point of balance among the three dimensions. No two people have the same spirituality; no two people have the same balance point. Also, I strongly suspect that your balance point will most probably change over time too.

Time, prayer—especially prayer—and energy must be channeled into each of these three dimensions. They work in tandem. They feed and reinforce each other. It becomes a gestalt kind of thing, where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Leave out one dimension, then you are shortchanging yourself. And most likely, you will burn yourself out, especially if your strongest dimension is in the horizontal one. By balancing all three dimensions in your unique way, you will be able to tap into the unlimited energy, peace, and love of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Come to think of it, the three dimensions of spirituality in a way mirror the Trinity. Each person within the Trinity has a relationship to the whole Trinity or godhead, with the other two persons within the Trinity, and with Himself. And if we are made in the image of God, then it seems that there would be three dimensions of spirituality for us too.

It is also no coincidence that the three dimensions of spirituality are imbedded within the idea of Third in Line—God first, others second, me third.

So, reach out, stretch yourself, move out of your comfort zone into the other dimensions of spirituality, for you, for others, and for God. And don’t forget that prayer is essential for all three.

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