I haven't had any time to finish my post on time! But its still on my mind. This post was put on ChristJourneyLife last week - and I hope to have a follow up to it here soon...
Like all of us I’m on a journey of transformation. The past few years of my journey have been incredibly difficult, but sitting in the Waffle House this morning waiting for the guys in my formation group; thinking about the front yard barbecue party we had at the Chappotin’s last night; remembering the guy we met playing racquetball yesterday who seemed quite interested in our house churches; recalling the lunch we had with friends from Harvest House on Tuesday; anticipating the new house church I’ll be leading in Shenendoah townhome community...even the painful times I’ve been through are valuable because they’ve brought us to this place, at this time.
Sometimes we have epiphanies. We read a book, have a conversation, pray a prayer, dream a dream or just slap our heads and say, “OH!” and the light comes on. Transformation can occur that quickly.
But typically it occurs in time. We are transformed in many different ways, but most of those ways involve continual change and growth.
That is why it is so tragic and such a missed opportunity when we live in an unexamined routine completely cut-off from the larger Story which has informed our story. My intention isn’t necessarily to convince anyone that we should study history (though, I REALLY believe that we should). My intention is actually to begin looking at the value of allowing time and rhythm to play an active role in our spiritual formation.
The larger Christian community, of which we are a part, is entering the season of Lent - a time to reflect on our brokenness and sin and a time to anticipate the need for a Savior. Lent falls within a season for Christ Journey that focuses on foundations. During the next few months we’ll focus on the story we find ourselves in, the Story of God and his creation. We’ll discuss the core values of our community. We’ve tied this time in with Lent and Easter because the progression of darkness to light is so very appropriate.
What I want to say here is more than just a preview of what we’ll be discussing and practicing in our house church gatherings, Sunday worship or the Foundations Retreat (March 20-21). Instead I want to encourage you with a few ideas.
First, remember that your spiritual formation and even your transformation take place in time. Don’t imagine that you can just collect spiritual truths apart from real life, apart from a real context. While God may exist outside of time, we do not. Therefore our formation will occur in time and space. Reading, studying and the like are surely important, but so are listening, laughing, engaging and practicing. Reading a book on evangelism is certainly helpful...listening to the stories of a neighbor who is struggling with health issues can be even more formative.
Second, your spiritual formation will occur in due time. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to practice a spiritual discipline that is somewhat new to me in actual, real world practice. Surprise, I’m not very good at it! However, I believe that in time this practice will become more natural and over time I am also convinced that it will aid in my continual process of being conformed to the image of Christ. You are no different.
Finally, your spiritual formation will benefit from the rhythm that only time can provide. Whether it is family holidays, sports seasons, or the start of a new semester, we usually have strong reactions (positive or negative) to the recurring events and seasons in our lives. One of the things we hope to emphasize in the various gatherings of the Christ Journey community is that we are people and a community in process. By cultivating a rhythm of telling and retelling the foundational stories of our faith, we have the opportunity to live into that story in deeper ways over time.
Seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost are more than just dates on a calendar, they are tools for engaging time for the purpose of spiritual formation. They engage us in the progression from darkness to light and they do so from year to year. During this season of Lent we are encouraged to find solidarity with the suffering of Christ, recognizing the very real and deep effect of sin and brokenness. Beyond this, by sacrificing something we enjoy during this season we acknowledge that only God is able to sustain and satisfy us. No amount of caffeine, sweets, red meat or sleeping in can fill that void we feel. (For a more detailed treatment of Lent, check out Kester Smith’s post ).
If you’ve never practiced Lent or if it has just been a requirement to give up something you like for 40 days, perhaps this year you can benefit by merely considering the potential blessing of this season. And perhaps next year you’ll find that the return of this season brings new possibilities.
And now it is 11:19 pm and I am sitting on my couch and I began this post at 7 am in Waffle House. My how time flies....