What Spirit Are We Living With?

How we grow in our faith has been, is, and will continue to be of a central interest to me.  H/T to The Crooked Mystic for her blog and the link to Kathy Escobar's blog (I really need to update my blog roll now) which of late has been focusing on developmental thought and theology.  It has focused primarily on the work of one of my spiritual directors, Janet Hagberg, and The Critical Journey.

As I am working on my own certification in Spiritual Direction, I have been watching and connecting theories to practice and experiences back to theories.  Because of my own background and work with Donald M. Joy regarding developmental thought and Wesleyan Theology, many of these connections have been amazing to see and observe.  It has taken a long time to get here though.  And the underlying truth I've learned is this:

You simply cannot rush the spiritual process.  

As a Methodist, this shouldn't be surprising and yet it is, when you live it out. John Wesley's own journey to salvation was long, winding and convoluted.  He affirmed as much in others.  From those observations, he then developed his own spiritual developmental theory in his sermon, "On the Spirit of Bondage and Adoption."

For pdf of Donald Joy on John Wesley's Development of Moral Thinking

When we move to measuring numerical growth before we have grown inwardly ourselves, then it is not surprising that fear and anxiety begin to rule the day (as it is seeming to do at General Conference as Morgan Guyton noticed).  If developmentally, we've not grown past an understanding of our imperial self, that is, a need to keep my balance without considering our shared reality (Robert Kegan, The Evolving Self, pg 91), then we cannot hope to understand what others are feeling.

Most certainly, we can't know how someone else is experiencing God in that moment.  And if it is fear, then we need to ask ourselves more pointedly, why?  Paul makes it plain, we "...have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again," (Romans 8:15).  So if fear and anxiety are what is ruling the hearts of others, what has happened?  Or better yet, do we care or are we even concerned we might even be the cause?

Let's get more to the point, what are we learning from the numbers we choose to measure?  Have Sunday mornings and worship experiences become more about helping us understand ourselves in light of God instead of helping us meet God in spite of ourselves?  Are our small groups focused on Spirit or self?  We can use words and concepts beyond our experience and knowledge but we cannot own them.  Our words can sound good but they may also fall on ears not able to comprehend.

May I Ask?  What is the spirit which is dominating your reality?  Where is it coming from?

May I Suggest?  Take time to listen to what is being said around you in conversation.  Listen for Spirit of Adoption NOT fear.


TB Pasquale said...

What wonderful reflections on personal discernment and spiritual development.

Many of the things I seem to be musing about lately--although not in the depth or breadth of, I am sure, you are in your Spiritual Direction training.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, thoughts, and reflections.

And thank you for linking back to me :)!

Ken L. Hagler said...

Thanks TB. I've enjoyed reading your blog and especially hearing younger voices speak out. Keep up your great work and writing!

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