Our bodies are incredible, and I think sometimes the way they're made could help us understand the One who created them in the first place. I was reading up on "growth plates" which are sections of our bones that allow our bones to get long enough to support our bodies as we get bigger. Having a 3 year old, this is interesting stuff because it translates into more trips to Goodwill for longer pants. Meanwhile... I was just thinking about our life of following Christ and wondering aloud: how would you know if you were growing? Doctors can look at growth plates and if they see something called the "epipthymeal line" they know that the bones have stopped growing. If you're 5'3 and you have the line, get used to being 5'3. It's over.
Spiritual formation, however, is the process of growing into Christ that never stops. We will never outgrow our need to be transformed and changed. So, how do we know if that's happening? Here are 5 possible "spiritual growth plates" we can use to think through this process.
1. Our Drive (heart) - Our hearts are the core of our motivations, the place where all of our decisions and actions originate. What if we ended each day, somewhat like the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, by saying "What motivated my 5 biggest decisions today?" Did we choose our words, priorities, etc. based on obedience to the Spirit of Christ or did we really just want to do whatever we felt was right? Do those two things line up for us?
2. The Dive (mind) - Our minds process motivations and the way we see the world. Our mind translates what we see so that our heart can formulate actions and responses. It's like a strainer for the information that comes to us through media, observation, and our own meditation. Paul says, "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think on these things." (Phil. 4:8) Paul isn't shooting for something simply ethical, but an exchange of darkness for light that can change our whole life. Do we replace dark, broken, evil thoughts with the stuff Paul mentions? What did we think about today?
3. Thrive (soul) - The soul is best understood as everything in life in right relationship. The soul is the target of the Hebrew concept of "shalom" - a life-engulfing peace that controls everything. The soul needs balance - work, play, interaction, rest, challenge, stimulation. When Jesus says "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?", He is showing that the fundamental problem with human beings is that we seek imbalance and there are always casualties. What did we do today to help balance work with rest, solitude with interaction, our marriage with our parenting?
4. Alive (strength/neighbor) - Rob Bell stated in a recent article for Leadership Journal that we really haven't "been to church" unless we practiced some of the "one another's" we find in Scripture. Life without community and loving others is a life out of balance, and ultimately a life that will experience the early departure of growth. Unless we're being moved to serve and serve with, love and love with, worship with, and suffer with (Rom. 12:14-13:1) others we aren't going to be able to grow in any of the other "plates." What did you do today to make space for others - strangers and friends alike?
The key to these plates is that they all depend on each other - and in their growth we start to see what maturity really looks like, and this journey of maturity will see through to the transformation of the world and the Kingdom of God bursting through.
reading: "Prayer and Temperament", Michael & Norrissey