Thursday, June 03, 2010

Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 5/6

"Rather than experiencing the joy of release that is the recognition and the journey from self, there's a joyless acknowledgement of never measuring up to self set high ideals."

Insight model.

"I am totally reflected out.." is something I hear quite often from people that have moved on from college. "We knew the kind of things to write and never gave anything away..." was another interesting comment. "I completely miss the opportunity to reflect in the same way as I used to in college.." another perception. People's reaction and engagement to and with reflection in their spiritual development fascinates me.

For some the whole process is too invasive, for others seemingly totally unnecessary; some engage wholeheartedly with a joy that comes from deep within as the benefit of the process is healthily embraced, others engage wholeheartedly with the joy absent as they seemingly fail to see the significance of the promise of the fullness of life that Christ modelled and offered.

While self reflection and inner analysis is essential in the identification of an inward chaos of self driven agendas, Wilhoit is keen to point out that too much prominence often leads to supporting a diseased introspection. Spiritual formation rather than contributing to our spiritual life through grace becomes burdensome through the weight of allowing our spiritual development to become a means of sin management.

Some classic voices of Spiritual Formation while rich in insight and undeniably helpful in understanding of the spiritual life seem to me sad and heavy. There is always context to be lost in the reading, but a good reading of Julian of Norwich, Thomas a Kempis tends to leave you all the richer but at the same time all the sadder! What is sadder is that you can see and feel the weight of sadness with people's spiritual formation today. Rather than experiencing the joy of release that is the recognition and the journey from self, there's a joyless acknowledgement of never measuring up to self set high ideals.

In the same way that people misread the classic voices without the all important context of the day, people seem to do the same within their reading of holiness. With an over preoccupation of choices and their consequences holiness and its outworking through spiritual formation is shaped by law rather than grace and becomes laced with a deep inner sadness.

When we allow insight and introspection to be reduced to the essence of spiritual life rather than merely a helpful aspect of our formation we entertain a false model of spiritual formation. "I came that you may have life..." should always be the starting point.

Wilhoit, J.C (2008:51ff) Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Baker


Eleanor Burne-Jones said...

I think the sadness is when formation comes to feel like a journey from self rather than a journey deeper toward the living presence of God. Only the presence of God, only 'knowing' Him, displaces our needs, agendas, and attempts to resolve fear and anger. The tension (surely inevitable?) between sadness and joy is about whether we are on the train journey 'from Manchester' or 'to Penzance'. In the end, formation is surely simply about 'fix your eyes upon Jesus', with a deep and healing inner knowing of how he loves and values us.

I'm glad at least some of the cadets find reflective practice a life-giving experience. One of the big difficulties as a soldier is the absence of reflective practice, the absence of a culture where it is even expected or given a context.

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