So what does it mean to be spiritually formed? Perhaps a better question is to ask: What does it look like when we are being formed spiritually?
I don’t know that the job of spiritual formation is ever done. For the Christian, who is called to become like Christ, I am not sure that arrival should be the goal so much as progress in the journey should be pursued.
Sometimes I think that we miss this point. We think of the destination more than we enjoy the journey. We work and work and work to achieve the right level of obedience, just to be disappointed when we inevitably miss the mark. We think of spiritual formation as doing rather than being.
Mike Yaconelli puts it this way in his book Messy Spirituality: “I don’t believe in spiritual growth. Maybe I should clarify. I don’t believe in what most people mean by spiritual growth. Spiritual growth has become an industry, a system, a set of principles, formulas, training programs, curricula, books, and tapes which, if followed, promise to produce maturity and depth.”
The point Yaconelli is trying to make here is that spiritual growth cannot be reduced to mechanics. I would say the same applies to the idea of spiritual formation. Growth and formation are, after all, two sides of the same coin. One focuses on the process with the other focusing on the progress. And any process that does not result in progress is flawed in some way.
If we are to grow spiritually, if we are to be formed spiritually, it will take work and discipline. It will take introspection and a relentless pursuit of relationship with God. And it will always be messy. Spiritual growth often does not happen in a sanitized setting. Positive spiritual movement oftentimes comes about after enduring a season of pain, loss, struggle, and failure. It happens after someone has made a mess of things and has nowhere else to turn but to the Lord.
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