The Love of Spirituality
By: Jessica Manuel and Rev. Anthony Tarasca
Spirituality comes in many forms; some become traditional religions while others are meditative, new age philosophies. Each have different approaches to what is considered a God or a higher power / source of energy but most are man-made and become structured, traditional and theocratic. Sadly, religion is one of the major reasons for war around the world, causing human suffering while imposing one’s beliefs on another.
Without a doubt, a Love of Spirituality is crucial to our health and spirit. We are spiritual beings in need of uplifting ourselves and others; the world so desperately needs us to stand courageous and faithful to being our best selves.
Acts of kindness, humility, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control are all characteristics of someone who is well balanced in their spiritual life. These are not easy things to do but the small act of believing in something that’s greater than yourself naturally changes us to become better.
I want to make it clear that the stories you will read are not suggesting or imposing a particular belief as each of us have a right to follow our own conscience. These are just two examples, both of whom happen to share the same belief.
A Story from Jessica…
I am a different person today, far removed from my past failures and Chains that used to keep me in bondage.
Growing up I was raised in Catholic environment and to be honest it absolutely sucked for me. There were times when I fell asleep in church (while thinking it was a ticket to hell), praying when things went wrong and just wanting someone to fix my problems. Never waiting for a response or asking for direction lead me to being discouraged.
HOW CAN GOD EXSIST WHEN MY REQUESTS ARE GOING UNANSWERED?!?!
“This is ridiculous”, I thought.
Years went by and my circumstances leading into my adolescent years were hard and lonely. I was dealing with disappointments, coming from a broken home and a lack of self-confidence. Darkness and depression surrounded me, living in shelters, random people’s couches and finding other ways to escape my pain. I was spiritually dead, hopeless and feeling like none of this could ever be turned into something “good”, which is what many “holy” people told me. “God will take care of you, He has never left you”…
Say that to me AFTER you’ve been through my seasons; I’d think to myself… What a CROCK!!…
4 years later I was shocked to start seeing my dreams and prayers coming into reality, but not in the way I pictured it. There were endless moments of realization that I was being pursued by a higher power (even though I didn’t know who, what or why yet) and I would cry emotion-struck by the goodness and redemption in my life.
For the sake of your time while reading this, I will not share each situation with you in detail (I will include the details in my book “Choose Love”). The one situation I remember though is sitting on a bench, asking for an opportunity to share my story, to empower others to “Break Free” from their bondages, finding a way out of poverty, homelessness or hopelessness while attaining the best level of success.
10 years later, I have spoken to thousands of people from all walks of life, opened up a speaking and coaching business, and written or been featured in just shy of a 100 articles online, sharing experiences and helping lives internationally.
Once you pray and experience the results that I have it is really hard not to believe in something. It was like someone slapped me in the face when I realized how imperfectly perfect my life was becoming. The darkest part of my circumstances were now being used to build other people up, visions about how to expand and grow the message, it was amazing and far too brilliant to be coming from me.
A few years ago I decided that I was going to start understanding the Author of my story, and I was surprised to find that it really had nothing to do with a church, rules or doctrine at all; it had everything to do with walking in relationship with this person I so greatly admired, Jesus Christ. Rules carried an element of shame, guilt and victimization where as the relationship brought me eventual freedom.
If you’re still reading this and do not believe, this next line may discourage you but please keep reading.
Once I surrendered my life and decided to follow Jesus, life seemed to get worse for me. The speaking engagements stopped, the desire to look for them, everything I thought was important seemed to be taken away from me. Until I realized why; it wasn’t my story anymore, I needed to stop taking the pen away from the Author. So it finally happened; deep bondages were broken: validation I received, a sense of confidence and pride, or other false senses of security were destroyed.
I learned that this process was not to harm me but to enable me to be more like the One I was following. I now had a deeper capacity to love, an incredible desire to do things for others… small, incremental (and sometimes painful) transformations that made me a better person, the one I am today. The best part is, this is just the beginning.
Faith for me is my only constant and it is a journey that is not always easy but totally worth it. I am far greater with this Light in me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am strong, courageous and because I’m naturally a risk-taker, it makes my life exciting to write about. So I guess the “holy” people were right, God is good. My only hope is that millions more experience His goodness the way I have.
A Story from Anthony…
If there is one theme that was recurrent in the first 4 Parts of the Love Series that I shared with you all; it was Identity. And while I spoke much of not having a father figure as a child to help me establish an identity, I was most certainly not lamenting over it as one carrying a heavy burden. True, it affected me adversely growing up into adulthood, but I at last came to a point in my life through the blessed realization that even though I did not have a father I could turn to here in the flesh, I had then and have now a Heavenly Father to Whom I could turn to in the spirit. Yes, it took me many years to figure it out, but figure it out I did and the end result was my Love of Spirituality.
I was raised in a Catholic environment, and my mother was always and still is a devout Catholic. So if there is one positive that came from that environment, it was a belief in a Greater Power. In truth, I was not one for Church or the traditions that went with it. Even in my dark years I was always searching for something, I just didn’t know what it was. I gravitated towards many different religious views other than Catholicism, from Buddhism and Taoism thanks in large part to my Kung Fu background, to Judaism, Islam and Bahaism in my continual search for God and answers which was the result of my life of conflict.
On the outside I hid my pain well, but on the inside I was hurting, and it didn’t help that the answers I was looking for in these various religions did not come.
Finally, my search ended in the Person of Jesus Christ, and not religions or religious traditions, neither a specific church nor denomination, and it definitely did not end in a cult-minded religious theocracy. I came to see Jesus from a personal level, and concluded that He is who He claimed to be. In order to learn more, I removed myself from any inkling of religious traditions and dogmas which are nothing more than an easy to swallow “Spiritual Pabulum” by those who speak “Christianese”, and delved headlong into The Holy Bible, which became the sole source of my faith.
After giving my life to the Lord and becoming a Christian, it gave me the wisdom to see that every part of my life, whether good or bad (and there was lots of bad), was for my edification and growth. My experiences led me to where I am today, a far from perfect individual who is fully aware of his own weaknesses and imperfections, but knowing that in Jesus I have THE TRUE GOD who takes my imperfections, molds them and allows me to use them for the betterment of others and uplifting the human spirit that was breathed into each one of us by this most loving Creator. Through all the battles I faced growing up, and all the bad choices I made, my faith was tempered like the strongest and sharpest of swords.
Being a Christian is a call to be Courageous, not cowardly. It is not for the weak-minded or weak-souled, it is for those who don’t pray for the mountain to be moved, but rather for the strength to climb the mountain. Jesus didn’t suffer so that we wouldn’t have to; He suffered to teach us how to suffer in faith, and through that suffering strengthen within us a Warrior’s Soul. For me, being a follower of Jesus Christ, coupled with my over 42 years of Shaolin Kung Fu training, has made me a Spiritual Warrior for my Warrior King, and while I still have my struggles, through Jesus Christ my Lord and the Power of the Holy Spirit I know that from my struggles I will emerge. Amen.
If I can do this, you can too.
JESUS > RELIGION
In essence, faith is based on internal transformation not external factors. Spiritual growth is only formed through meditative prayer, reflection and slowing down to listen to that “voice” inside for guidance and reassurance when we need it. The world is full of disappointments and hardships, one that is a constant battle we are all fighting through.
Outward displays are not indicative of that internal transformation and the only person who will understand the depth or outcome of your transformation would be you. Identity, self-assurance, self-worth, confidence, security and joy are the things that others will see as a result of your spiritual health, not by the doctrine or institution you follow.
I want to encourage everyone to always educate themselves on the beliefs they have to ensure that what you’re involved in is healthy. Find a Love for Spirituality so that you, your family, the people around you and inevitably your intimate relationships are secure and thriving the best way possible.