Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Transforming Moment

Ever wonder how spiritual formation takes place? We spend our energies reading and studying the Word of God, praying, practicing the spiritual disciplines and serving the church and the world. Yet, we feel there is no difference in our spiritual life. Then something happens, and 'aha', suddenly everything makes sense, everything comes together, and it is easy to give up what we have been struggling for so long. What happened?
Some scholars believe that spiritual formation is a continuous hidden process, like a gradual incline of a standard curve on a graph. I believe that too. Spiritual formation is the the process of sowing the seeds of spiritual growth.
However, I also believe that there is something called spiritual transformation. Spiritual transformation occurs at the moment when the Holy Spirit takes what has been sowed, and transformed us. In that transforming moment we make a leap of spiritual growth into another level.
James Loder is the Mary D. Synnot Professor of the Philosophy of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary. His book, The Transforming Moment, documents his thoughts about what I have just articulated. Shucks. Did you ever have this experience that you think you have come up with a brilliant idea and later found that someone else had already came out with it and published it first? His book is so well written that I forgive him. Loder interweaves psychology (developmental and psychoanalytic) and theology to examine and describe the transforming moment.
He described it as a five part structure: conflict-in-context, interlude for scanning, insight felt with intuitive force, release and openness, and interpretation and verification. In simple English, 'aha'. This transforming moment is "the pattern of God's action as Spiritus Creator, who transforms the human spirit, freeing it to indwell the Holy Spirit in conformation with Christ."
This transforming moment occurs in a crisis situation. In other words, spiritual transformation occurs only in, during, or after a crisis situation in our lives.

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Anonymous blogapastor said...

I like your use of the analogy of sowing and reaping. Yes I agree wholeheartedly from personal observation of my life and others that these transformations move you to another level and leaves you amazed and praising God. The best levelling up is when you don't notice it but others do.

11:09 AM  
Blogger lilian koh said...

Hi Alex, I find these thoughts about formation and transformation very interesting. Would you care to say more about what happens in, during and after crisis situations in our lives? I guess we do know that not every grows in a crisis. Some in fact seem to regress...What makes the difference? And how does spritual transformation occur when life goes smoothly?

3:33 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi blogapastor,

I am happy to note that you too observed the same thing, that transformations occurs and lift us to a higher level of relationship with God.

Normally we do not see the transformation that has occurred in us because we are too busy adapting or becoming our new selves. But others do. Others will notice the difference.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi lilian,

I believe that most of our spiritual growth comes during crisis, of whatever nature. I am drawing on the psychosocial growth theories of Piaget, Erikson and Fowler.

During a crisis, our props are taken away, our delusions are revealed, our self-reliance are shaken, and we realise our need for something better. It is during this period that we are most receptive to the Holy Spirit, and I believe that it is during this moments that the Holy Spirit transforms our spirits.

Yes, we do know that not every transformation is good. Some make us closer to God while in others, these transformations draw us from God. Yet, whatever it is, something happens during these transforamtion.

How do we ensure that our transformations, when it happens bear positive results? That's where spiritual formation comes in. Spiritual formation develops personal mastery, mental models, and shared vision of who we are becoming. It is the sowing and cultivating the soil of our souls. So when a crisis occurs, our reactions will be positive. Those who neglects their spiritual formation will 'regress'.

I am not sure that there is such a life where everything goes 'smoothly'. Our lives are usually very 'interesting'. Sooner or later, we will be hit by a crisis. It may be physical, mental, emotional, financial, or relational. Our human bodies are also designed to create crises. Whether we like it or not, we age chronologically and our telomeres make sure that our bodily functions age with it. Basically, our seasons of life are designed to be crisis points.

1:15 AM  

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