formation

I was reading today about spiritual formation. I realized how few goals I have.

Some background on that juxtaposition of ideas.

Spiritual formation is a process of shaping that happens to our core. It is happening to all of us. However, we differ as to what we are being shaped to look like or to fit with. Further, we differ as to how intentional we are about the process.

Physical formation–training–equips you to run a marathon. Social formation equips you to function in fine restaurants…or at least to say “please” and “thank you” at appropriate times. In each of these there are things that you do over and over. There are things that you refuse to do. And there are clear desirable outcomes: running the Boston Marathon, climbing a flight of stairs without breathing hard, not getting kicked out of restaurants, having your friends invite you over.

What I realized is that I need to identify some of the same goals for spiritual formation. I need to be somewhat intentional about developing habits that can shape my soul. Because, to be honest, I already have habits. The question is whether they are healthy.

Why does this matter? Because the gates are locked at 8 or at 80 or a 58. Because I don’t have all the time in the world. Because maybe, just maybe, I need to be ready for a marathon of faith. Or maybe I just need to be ready to climb the stairs.

(Thanks to the other Rob for the photo (Robb Lenardson has supplied several of my signs. Rob Hatch is trying to catch up.))

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6 responses to “formation

  1. I find it funny that people spend sometimes hours a day to be phsycialy fit, but find it hard to find fifteen to twenty minutes a day to become spritually fit (my self included, i find it hard on both parts most of the time.)

  2. Jon, this is SO important!

    After college, my wife realized, “Oh no. Nobody’s gonna give me a syllabus again!” So she started creating her own reading goals for the year.

    I loved that and ran with it.

    By just focusing on one area–prayer, contemplative prayer, fasting, lectio divina, servant evangelism, retreats, bible reading, etc.–we can go a LONG way in working with the Holy Spirit as He shapes us!

  3. ooohh…from my very limited experience, I highly recommend lectio divina. The previous comment invites me back to that.

  4. What is lectio divina?

  5. With all of the tips, tricks and toys out there for tracking fitness goals, perhaps we need the same for our spiritual formation. Perhaps, a widget on our Google page? Maybe, Nike will invent something for our iPod that keeps us motivated.

    “You’ve said five Our Father’s. Great work.”

    Maybe someone will come up with some wonderful Ajax application where we can check off when we’ve completed our spiritual formation for the week.

    Why does this all sound so wrong?

    If 2.0 can serve us well in creating genuine relationships with real people, why not God?

  6. Good question, Dennis. Kathleen Norris describes it this way: “Lectio divina literally means, holy reading…it is a daily meditation on scripture in which one reads not for knowledge or information but to enhance one’s life of faith. … one might attempt to memorize a verse or two of scripture and let it percolate through the consciousness while going about one’s work, allowing the words to become part of everyday life, illuminating one’s relationships with others and with the self.” (amazing grace, 277-278)

    It often includes reading aloud, listening to the Word read aloud, just reflecting on the Word.