29 October 2009

The Irrepressible Effect of Being Alive to the Kingdom of God

Too often in my well-intentioned desire for Christian formation, I am simply seeking to find a balance between extremes: more like a “middle ground.” Unfortunately, "middle ground" is that imaginary place between “spiritual” and “carnal” living. And, as such, as a friend once said, “That middle ground is that place I wave to as I swing by on my way from one end of the pendulum to the opposite end.”
The truth is, Christian formation is Christ-formed-in-me, in the here and now. Most importantly, and most often and easily forgotten, it is God's desire to have me grow is greater and more urgent than my desire is.

Michael J. Wilkins talks about the extremes we often find ourselves in as we strive to have a “good” Christian life:
“For example:
- the contemplative who forgets the needs of the world
- the moralist who focuses on sin and neglects compassion
- the charismatic who seeks the gifts and neglects the Giver
- the social activist who forgets to listen to God
- the Bible-study enthusiast who feels no need for the Holy Spirit
- the ascetic who disallows the joy of life in Christ
- the community participant who loses his/her individual identity
- the Christian leader who forgets that she/he is still simply one of the flock…”

He adds: “ ‘Spirituality,’ then, is the overall goal of becoming like Jesus. ‘Spiritual formation’ points to the process of training, shaping, and being shaped in every area of our lives by the Spirit into the image of Christ.”
(Michael J. Wilkins, from: In His Image: Reflecting Christ in Everyday Life, NavPress, 1997.)

Dallas Willard clarifies,

“Spirituality in human beings is not an extra or ‘superior’ mode of existence. It’s not a hidden stream of separate reality, a separate life running parallel to our bodily existence. It does not consist of special ‘inward’ acts even though it has an inner aspect.

It is, rather, a relationship of our embodied selves to God that has the natural and irrepressible effect of making us alive to the Kingdom of God – here and now in the material world.”

(Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 31.)