Invitation to a Journey - part 2
This is part two of some excerpts and reflections from "Invitation to a Journey: a road map for spiritual formation" by M. Robert Mulholland Jr.
His proposed definition of Christian spiritual formation is:
"Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others". All elements of this definition are significant.
If you ask most Christians about their spiritual pilgrimage, they will say that it is a day-by-day experience ...a process. But if you were to ask them how God works transformation in their lives, many would indicate that God "zaps" them at some point and instantly changes them. How often Christians struggle to create the setting in which God can "zap" them out of their brokenness and into wholeness! (p19)
Have we been seduced by the cult of 'instant gratification' seeking the perfect short cut or technique from a spiritual vending machine? Maybe one of the first stuggles is to break free from this!
Is not that right techniques, right methods and right programs are not beneficial. Nor should we minimize the importance of transforming spiritual moments on our pilgrimage .... but there is something about the nature of spiritual wholeness and the growth toward that wholeness that is very much a process. (p20)
He says spiritual growth is patterned on the nature of physical growth which happens over a long period of time with growth spurts (like during adolescence) and plateaus. But we need to be careful not to mistake the spurts for all there is as we languish waiting for the next one. It is happening all the time - even in the times of dryness or darkness, God is often at work below the surface of our lives, working on the foundations for what may appear to the untrained eye to be the next sudden leap forward.
We are all continually being formed by our experiences and by our choices and responses.
Spiritual formation is not an option! The inescapable conclusion is that life itself is a process of spiritual development. The only choice we have is whether that growth moves us toward wholeness in Christ or toward an increasingly dehumanized and destructive mode of being (p24)
Note the phrase is being conformed - not conforming ourselves!
Almost from the moment of birth we engage in a struggle for control of that portion of the world in which we live....Our constant struggle with the issue of control is a crucial part of our spiritual pilgrimage. I don't mind spiritual formation at all as long as I can be in control of it. As long as I can set the limits on its pace and its direction, I have no problem. What i do have a problem with is getting my control structures out of the way of my spiritual formation and letting God take control. In the final analysis, there is nothing we can do to transform ourselves into persons who love and serve as Jesus did except make ourselves available for God to do that work of transforming grace in our lives. (p26)
Being conformed militates against our very mode of being and way of life. Information graspers are structurarlly closed to being addressed by God. Information takers have extreme difficultly becoming receivers of God's voice. Functionally oriented people have great problems getting still and letting God act in God's own time. Performance oriented persons have a powerful temptation to turn spiritual disciplines into 'works righteousness' (p30)
All this highlights the need to recover the biblical order that doing flows out of our being. While doing is important, we need to guard against the idea that if we just do the right things we will be the right kind of Christian. "Doing is an outflow, the result, of a being that exists in relationship with Jesus as Lord."
David Wanstall, 17/02/2009