The older one gets, the more one must work to grow (as in continuous growth is a necessity…and it’s hard work). That’s what I am finding.
It applies across the board:
- If I quit working at physical health, my body will deteriorate.
- If I quit learning, my mind will deteriorate.
- If I quit hungering and thirsting after righteousness, my spirit will deteriorate.
Thus, spiritual growth is a mandate. I imagine that spiritual growth will last eternally, not just for my time on earth. I have long wanted to be a mature (or as Paul said it: perfect) Christian. Hopefully I arrive someday.
Here are the ways I am working on my spiritual growth. The easy ones first, then the tough one: Contemplation in the face of the real world…
I seek God’s face.
Where is He showing himself to me today? I look for his handiwork in the world around me. I look for his movement in the people around me. I look for his guidance in my own spirit. Psalm 27:8 says: When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, shall I seek.
I humble myself.
I have a friend remind me once that God is God and I am not. A great fallacy of my job as a counselor is believing that everyone must be healed and whole, that the world must be just and right…and that God needs to follow my plan for making it so. I Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…
I read God’s word.
Really. God bothered to share his wisdom in the Bible. When I keep myself current in my knowledge of his word, I am less likely to fall for the nonsense that sometimes passes as religious teaching but has nothing to do with what God said. Matthew 4:4…Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Often I pray a formal prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer. Mostly I pray in intercession for my nation, all those in authority, all people- especially those I care about and those who have made themselves my *enemies* (all the more important since I can’t run the universe). II Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their land.
I listen (wait).
It’s easy to be too busy to listen, but I’ve learned he speaks in a still, small voice…even when I’m not listening. The minute I slow down and listen, he is waiting to share his love, wisdom, peace and courage. Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.
I hunger and thirst for righteousness.
When I’m hungry and thirsty for food, I engage in behaviors that will satisfy that need.When I pay attention to my spirit, there is hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus said that I am blessed when I hunger and thirst for righteousness and that I shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).
The behaviors that are just and right for me are: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). In other words, righteousness for me is doing what is right and merciful towards others (especially those who are weaker or in need) and remembering that God alone gives me the power to do so.
Currently, the most important way to care for my spirit is contemplation. There are many definitions of contemplation, so I have digested them into: Contemplation is holy noticing. Where ever I am, God is there and is. In him I live and move and have my being. Acts 17:28
When I live contemplatively, I am awake to him and notice what he is doing and being.
That’s huge. Of course it is. It is overwhelming to contemplate an infinite God.
On my latest silent retreat, I found a book that summarized some practices that is helping me grow in contemplative health.
The practices I am working on are from The Rule of Benedict and says that the contemplative life has 4 dimensions:
- Recognizing the presence of God in my life. I’m not any better than the prophet Jonah at running from God and I sure don’t want to be ignoring God. I simply need to graciously notice his presence. To do this, I need to ask him daily, “O God, come to my assistance…”.
- Accepting the gifts of others. This is easy when the gifts are lovely. However, some *gifts* are the opposite. I am learning to ask God’s assistance in accepting the fact that some others are blind, misguided or hateful. This is a gift to me when I am able to graciously notice those distasteful gifts and without joining the blindness, misguidedness or hatred, then hand it to God. Then I wait for his assistance to handle in mercy and truth the guidance he gives me. (Accepting the gift is important to me in these days, in the real world there is rudeness, greed and hatefulness that are accepted, taught and even glorified. I don’t need to be drawn into the brokenness but can speak the truth in love as God leads, then allow God to tend my heart while hoping for his healing of this broken nation.)
- Let go of false expectations in daily life. Step 1 on this is recognizing what a *false expectation in daily life is*! Ugh. But letting go opens me up to the submission to his will, which is the point of it all, anyway.
- Receive others kindly. Knowing my limitations, I can accept them. That does not mean to agree with them or kowtow to them. It does mean in the power that grace gives, I can treat them kindly.
Someday, I long to hear: Well done, good and faithful servant.