Those smart and faithful Canadians! I have a online friend who wrote on his blog last week concerning the movement from belief to action…in doing so, he quoted a book that I haven't read yet but which, in some ways, is a "readable" summary and further exploration of some of the work of James Fowler (who is one of the key voices in academia who has clarified or at least hypothesized on "stages of faith/spiritual formation"). Len writes,
"In The Critical Journey, Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich describe six stages in the life of faith:
Stage One: Recognition. “we believe”
Stage Two: Discipleship. “we are learning about God”
Stage Three: Production. “doing things for God”
Stage Four: The Wall. “things aren’t working anymore”
Stage Five: the Journey Outward. “living from a new center”
Stage Six: the Life of God. “It’s all about love”
He continues his post by saying, "As a believer in Jesus I was focused on my self. As a follower of Jesus, I have focused more on Him…when our focus moves to Jesus and following him, it is much easier to embrace rhythms in our spiritual life, rhythms that help us to stay open and awake and attentive."
That has been my experience…when I was primarily focused on "growing in the Lord", life was primarily about me – God listening to me, me learning how to pray, me understanding the bible, me engaging in worship, me learning what my gifts are, me doing things for God and His Kingdom…but as one matures in the journey of faith, a dynamic action of the Spirit takes shape in the heart. Many times, that reshaping occurs in the midst of conflict, struggle and confusion as the "old ways" of living a Kingdom journey start to be filled with a sense of "staleness" or a "been there, done that" kind of familiarity where our spirit starts to realize and yearn for more. That "more" lies in a subtly but powerfully refocused journey – one that moves from the center of self to the passion for following and being like Jesus. There comes a time in the heart of a growing disciple where you realize that your prime passion is to be "less" and to have Jesus be "more". That realization alone can be a harbinger of a significant shift in how we do for God – no longer is our doing for God primarily about "us" and our walk with Jesus which revolved primarily around us…the doing becomes just one more way of following Jesus and something that comes naturally and fluidly from the heart of one who's desire is to be shaped and molded by the Spirit into the likeness of Christ.
One more thing that Len quotes in his blog post is a comment by Andy Raine of the Northumbria Community regarding their “rule of life..” I always hesitate a moment when talking about community covenants and "rules" because so many in my life interpret them as a form of legalism…but it is no longer legalism if the acts or actions of the covenant are acts NOT to promote or focus on one's one spiritual formation (i.e. righteousness or holiness) but rather where the rythms are those that occur within our desire to follow Jesus' way and to act in accordance with a community in being the embodiment of the Kingdom that Jesus so desires to reveal to the world in and through us. Here's Andy's comments about his community's "rule":
"A Rule then is a means whereby, under God, we take responsibility for the pattern of our spiritual lives. It is a ‘measure’ rather than a ‘law’. The word ‘rule’ has bad connotations for many, implying restrictions, limitations and legalistic attitudes. But a Rule is essentially about freedom. It helps us to stay centred, bringing perspective and clarity to the way of life to which God has called us. The word derives from the Latin ‘regula’ which means ‘rhythm, regularity of pattern, a recognisable standard’ for the conduct of life. Esther De Waal has pointed out that ‘ regula’ ‘is a feminine noun which carried gentle connotations’ rather than the harsh negatives that we often associate with the phrase ‘rules and regulations’ today. We do not want to be legalistic. A Rule is an orderly way of existence but we embrace it as a way of life not as keeping a list of rules. It is a means to an end – and the end is that we might seek God with authenticity and live more effectively for Him."
I don't know…I read Len's post yesterday and I thought I would share some of it with you…I'm still working that through myself. A "self focused" journey vs. an "other focused" journey…interesting how that dynamic can be significant in many, many areas of life. More to come…