Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Free Form Spiritual Formation

I go through life as a transient on his way to eternity, made in the image of God but with that image debased, needing to be taught how to meditate, to worship, to think. Donald Coggan

I’m more of a free-spirit to tell you the truth. I’ve never been good with rules and regulations. It’s not necessarily good or bad, it’s just the way it is. So, for me, spiritual formation hasn’t come in a linear form. It probably really doesn’t with anyone but some resources tend to make me think that it’s supposed to work that way, you know, do ‘A’ and then ‘B’ will happen which will automatically lead to ‘C’ and so on. That’s a problem because I’ve always been more of “Why do we even have to start with ‘A’?” kinda guy. So, I recognize that about myself. I recognize that left on my own I’d try to develop spiritual maturity in some borderless, panoramic vista. Now, sometimes a free-range environment like that is just what I need. Breaking the rules and charting new territory can be exciting. But after a steady journey down this path sooner or later I’ll notice that I’m not making as much headway as maybe I should. I end up floating, like in some anti-gravitational machine, not really catching traction or gaining ground. It’s during those times that I realize once again that rules (i.e. parameters, disciplines, guidelines, mentors, habits, etc…) can be helpful. When used properly they provide an important and solid foundation.

One metaphor that has proved helpful for me is to think of music. In music the rhythm is the foundation upon which the melodies and harmonies can dance around. Without rhythm there would be no dance unless it’s some interpretive, free-form thing. In my spiritual growth the rhythm can be viewed as rules or disciplines and without them there is no ‘dancing’ in my own maturation. I need something to keep the beat, to keep me in time, to provide a foundation for the melody to dance around unless again, it’s some interpretive, free-form thing. But that’s my point. An interpretative, free-form thing becomes so subjective and without points of reference that eventually I just wander.

Bottom line: A free-form, free-spirit is good but unless it’s given direction in the end it won’t accomplish much.


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Marina Berryman said...

I'm right there with you.
It makes my skin crawl when people tell me they've discovered "the best discipleship tool for the 21st century"...or something to that effect. I don't believe that "iron sharpening iron" happens when you read a book. It can only happen through doing life deeply with people, taking risks in the relationship together, going through trials together, and encouraging one another to "live the life."

jonathan foster said...

Hey, sorry, I missed this comment til just now. Thanks. Yeah, everyone's got the latest and greatest method don't they? Meanwhile the things you mention... risks, taking life deeply with people, trials... they're timeless and effective. Slow. But effective.