Why Spiritual Practices/Disciplines?
“Superficiality is the curse of our age…. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
-Richard Foster, “Celebration of Discipline”
“The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.”
-Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
“Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.”
Once upon a time, a group of men from Chicago left their jobs in the high-rise office buildings, moved to the prairie, and bought some farmland. “We’re farmers!” They all declared to each other. And all summer long they would go to the field to watch their crop grow up. However, when September rolled in, their fields were filled with goldenrod and all kinds of wildflowers and weeds.
“Where’s the corn?” they asked each other. And they wondered what they could have possibly done wrong.
Growing up in the church, I have often noted the fact that so few “long-time church members” experience the significant life-change expected from many years as students of Jesus. Like those city boys, they purchase the land, but do nothing to cultivate a field in which growth could take place.
Why do so many of us feel like we just have not grown very much in the likeness of our Master? Are we just spiritually “thick-headed?” Are we just not “built” to be spiritual giants? Or have we simply not been taught what it means to be a student of Jesus?
Perhaps we as the church have placed so much emphasis on making converts that we have neglected to make disciples. We work hard to help people come to faith–to become a “Christian”-but can you identify any intentional efforts to help people become more like our Teacher?
Perhaps we have emphasized a wrong teaching about faith and its relationship to good deeds. Works has gotten a bad rap, while workless faith has grown more appealing-“cheap grace” as Bonhoeffer stated it.
As you experiment with new spiritual practices, it’s important to remember a few things: 1) the goal of spiritual practices is never the practice itself, but rather intimacy with God 2) many practices become richer and deeper when we experience them with others, rather than by ourselves and 3) like any other discipline, the spiritual disciplines don’t come easy. Don’t be discouraged if you find any new practice difficult at first.You probably didn’t run a 6 minute mile the first time. Persevere, and don’t be discouraged.