Friday, July 31, 2009

A Call to Spiritual Formation (6)

Paragraph Three

Our engagement with God’s transforming grace is vital. Renewal into the image of Christ is not a human attainment; it is a gift of grace. God mercifully uses all our experiences, including our suffering and trials, to teach and transform us. Even so, transformation requires our involvement and effort. We need to make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit’s work in all our life experiences, particularly through intentional engagement with historical Christian disciplines, including Word and sacrament. These practices open us to the presence and grace of God. As a result, we become, through time and experience, the kind of persons who naturally express love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self‐control.

I am in full agreement with this paragraph. Christian spiritual formation is a paradox. On one hand, it is pure grace. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our inner lives, transforming us. On the other hand, it requires consent on our part, making ourselves available, and “intentional engagement with historical Christian disciplines, including Word and sacrament.”

Christian spiritual formation takes place in the context of who we are and where we are. At any one time, there are external and internal influencers on our Christian spiritual formation. External influencers may be the country we are residing in, freedom of worship, religious pluralism, post-modernism, post-Christendom, denominational biasness, socioeconomic stability, and the effects of globalisation. Internal influencers may arise out of our cultural legacy, childhood trauma, deep inner wounds, and our psychosocial development. Effective Christian spiritual formation must be able to counteract the negative effects of all these influencers. Thus Christian spiritual formation can never be a program because the challenges are unique to every Christian. There is no “one size fits all” in Christian spiritual formation.

The process of Christian spiritual formation is often likened to a journey. As in any journey, we are often required to move out of our comfort zones and encounter difficult obstacles. The Holy Spirit journeys with us and often uses the circumstances (James Loder’s transforming moments) to transform us. It is this constant interaction involving the Holy Spirit, our being and the world that enable the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us. Christian spiritual formation takes place in our everyday world, not somewhere far away in a monastery or hermitage.

Spiritual disciplines and practices are important in Christian spiritual formation. The key to spiritual disciplines and practices are that they open us to God. All spiritual disciplines and practices must revolve round the Word and sacrament. Ressourcement is the act of looking into our past rich Christian heritage and reappropriating these spiritual disciplines and practices that we can use in the 21st century. It is important to be aware that spiritual disciplines and practices are the means of Christian spiritual formation and not its end. It is equally important to clarify the misconception that spiritual formation is equivalent to spiritual disciplines. This is because in some churches, spiritual formation has become synonymous with practicing the spiritual disciplines.

In summary, Christian spiritual formation involves both grace and human choice. The choice is to seek God and detach ourselves from all influences that will draw us away from God and into the world. The spiritual disciplines and practices are useful only in that they open us to God.


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