In the last few weeks, several colleagues interested in strengthening the spiritual life of our students met to begin gaining a shared vision for that work. We asked Gary Moon from Westmont’s Dallas Willard Center for Christian Spiritual Formation to talk to us about what this might look like. Gary brought us Willard’s vision from Renovation of the Heart, which looks a bit like this:
At the center of this process is a transformation of our will, and the idea that we enter God’s Kingdom as our will and God’s will become the same.
This jives with the vision for life in the Spirit I’m currently drawing on. The spiritual disciplines are (where did this phrase come from?) practices and routines that deepen my surrender to God. This is the means of maintaining a life of denying self (surrender), willingness to lay down my will and take up the cross (acceptance), and a daily attempt to live the way of Jesus (offering my life for others). This way of life is tested through examining what it produces in me and for others, through daily discernment of whether the flesh or the spirit is bearing fruit in me. This serves my becoming a human being “fully alive,” one who is more and more centered in loving God and loving others.
This feels pretty simple (which could be a good sign) and certain (which could be a bad sign) for me. But I’m trying it on again today.
As I get more familiar with the pros at this, I find their simple approaches to be part of the greatest challenge to following their example. I would like to take on practices that make me “holy” without having to adjust my will (which Willard interchanges with “heart;” my spirit). Or, I’d rather be able to measure success by a changed sense of who I am and my own power to get through the day. I am more open to finding a program that displays rigor, draws admiration towards my pride, and might strengthen my authority and influence so that others could serve my will. In their best interest, of course.
It’s true; as my four year old recently declared: I wish I could get everybody to do what I want to do.
I find these answers about spiritual transformation difficult because I’m not actually asking the question they’re answering. I want to know, “how do I get from A to B?”
No, not that B. No, not that B, either. Listen, you apparently don’t even understand where A is. I’m going to try another book.
But I don’t know A (where I am) or B (where I need to be). At A is the Spirit of God, speaking to my spirit, saying “you are beloved.” At B is me fully alive, fully living with and in that loving Spirit, through the Son, towards the Father. On the way is the good God does as we let him love others through us.
That’s going to be hard to map, chart, or to-do-list. It may require me to let go of many of the maps, charts, and to-do lists I’ve put sincere effort into envisioning and implementing to this point.
But the freedom in it is looking up from my plans to pause long enough that I see now, in this moment, I am at A. And right at this moment, B is breaking in, and I am moving towards arrival every time I put my attention and energy towards letting B a little more in.
It’s not an institutionally structured and assessed method of growth, service, or achievement. But it’s possible that it will lead me to do the next thing towards the will of God today. Which is where the Kingdom is, after all.