This is blog-sized Part Three of a paper I wrote for my Spiritual Formation Class. It's easy to find Parts One and Two. Feel free to answer the title question yourself if you have thoughts on it, in the comments. But first of all--Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for you, The Readership!
I’m starting to think one of the very, very best “resources” for being formed more into the image of Christ is pain, or suffering. I guess this makes sense since Jesus Himself suffered, and we are told that we should expect to suffer, too, for His sake–not to mention that if He was misunderstood, we should anticipate we will be. I can’t say I particularly enjoy this one, but pain seems to highlight any formation that has already happened, and to motivate further growth. The faculty and staff of the Seminary have been exemplary of this principle since the announcement of the shut-down. Sometimes I imagine that this whole ordeal is actually a simulation—a spiritual formation class that we don’t even know we’re taking, which we will get credits for or something in the end. That, of course, is not really the case, but we may well still, and indeed it is to be hoped we do, “come forth as gold” (Job 23.10) when this is all over—and maybe in the meantime, too.
Besides suffering, regular time in and interaction with the Bible is an obvious but indispensable resource for spiritual formation. I often read it in tandem with journaling, which usually serves as my method of focused prayer. Because I usually don’t discover what I really think about things until I’ve written them down, journaling is rarely optional for me. The Richard Peace books we worked through in our journaling process for the SP511 class in the spring term were very helpful resources to me in discovering new ways to journal and pray, and thereby to start to assess my spiritual growth. Blogging is less prayer-like for me, but it is instead frequently evangelistic, which I also feel is spiritually forming.
Spiritual biographies or autobiographies are also extremely helpful to me. It is encouraging to see people who have gone before—particularly when they are presented as flawed but God-accompanied. I know I’m flawed. I just pray God also makes Himself known through my life. Getting to know some “church parents” last term contributed to this growth; I read a biography about Dorothy Sayers. Some of our similarities were startlingly uncanny. Learning about her spurred me on to further spiritual formation in the gifts I’ve been given which are, in some ways, similar to hers.