Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spiritual Formation and Control

“Our constant struggle with the issue of control is a crucial part of our spiritual pilgrimage. I don’t mind spiritual formation at all as long as I can be in control of it. As long as I can set the limits on its pace and its direction, I have no problem. What I do have a problem with is getting my control structures out of the way of my spiritual formation and letting God take control. In the final analysis, there is nothing we can do to transform ourselves into persons who love and serve as Jesus did except make ourselves available for God to do that work of transforming grace in our lives.” (M. Robert Mulholland. "Invitation to a Journey". Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 26.)

How does this quote hit you?  When I read it on my former spiritual director’s blog, it led me to step back for a moment to examine my life.  At times, I’ve been tempted to think of spiritual growth as a process I’m in charge of, sort of like going to the gym.  My effort alone produces the results. 

It reminds me of a quote from Dallas Willard that one of my seminary professors was fond of repeating, "The Christian life is what you do when you realize you can do nothing."  More significantly, it reminds me of what Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

If there is nothing we can do to grow ourselves spiritually except make ourselve available for God to do the work of transforming us, then what does it look like to make ourselves available to his transforming work vs. trying to grow ourselves in our own power?  Thoughts?

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