While I’m reposting the McKnight articles, I want to take the time to talk/write/think through his questions. Please join me in the discussion; I hope it can help us all reach “the higher plane” that we’ve sung about so many times at church.
But first our question: What helps folks change the most in spiritual formation? One more: What do you think is the least helpful idea or practice or suggestion in helping folks change?
The only way I can answer this is to frame it as “What helps me change the most in spiritual formation? What has been the least helpful idea or practice or suggestion in helping me change?”
It’s easier to say what isn’t helpful than what is. What isn’t helpful is guilt or shame-inducing motivators. What isn’t helpful is legalism: presenting things as “you must do this or you will fail as a Christian” leads only to feeling overwhelmed. How many times have my girlfriends and I said, I don’t have time to think about one more thing!? And that’s just the thinking — not even the doing!
The times I have been authentically changed are not the times when I have been overwhelmed by things to do, but when I have been overwhelmed by God’s love. It’s a combination of knowing that God loves me and accepts me exactly the way I am, but also has a better vision of who I am. Success in this world doesn’t motivate me. Yes, I have standards and there are things that I want to have in order, but the things that really matter to me — my family, my friends, my integrity — those things matter because of their eternal nature.
And yes, I do believe that our relationships will carry over into the world that is to come. I believe they will be different, but I believe that they will be. I also believe that our basic nature — our “who we are” will travel with us too. I believe that King David is still writing songs and pouring out his heart to the Lord. I believe that Jeremiah may still be watching our world and weeping over the brokenness that he sees. I believe that Hosea is still whispering, Come back to me when he sees God’s beloved stray.
The times I grow spiritually are the times that God allows me to see myself clearly — my strengths, my weaknesses, my talents, my loves, my fears, my failures — and tells me that he loves me anyway. From there, I can take those different parts of myself and give them to him. Use my strength, talents, and loves, and let him handle the weaknesses, fears, and failures.
What about you? What has helped you most? What has been least helpful?