I’ve given birth twice, and I’ve experienced the unspeakable privilege of watching both of my daughters give birth to their first babies. But I can say without reservation—I have no idea how life happens. How does an infant live in a sack of amniotic fluid for nine months and then suddenly enter a world of bright lights and noisy admirers and realize he/she must breathe oxygen?
We could probably agree that a newborn doesn’t realize he/she must breathe—any more than a caterpillar realizes why it must spin a cocoon.
But they do it.
And they’re transformed.
Realizing Is for Humans
Since you and I are neither babies nor caterpillars, we are sometimes more driven by our “realizations” than our innate sense. This isn’t always a bad thing because as the introductory quote says in our Sacred Rhythms study:
“…to desire and seek God is a choice that is always available to us.” ~ Elizabeth Dryer
Sometimes, however, our very logical minds convince us that all our “God-given opportunities” point us to a level of activity that soon leads to what Sacred Rhythms author, Ruth Haley Barton, calls Christian Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Worshiping, serving, helping, giving, doing, doing, doing leaves us with a longing that grows deeper with every new Christian ministry we undertake or spiritual goal we set.
Longing—A 4-Letter Word?
I write biblical historical romance novels, so I know all about the bells and whistles associated with the term longing. When we speak of a deeper longing in the Church, we’re often given a book to read, a self-help program to join, or a Scripture to apply to memory.
Sometimes real desire runs too deep for a quick spiritual fix.
The author of Sacred Rhythms put it this way:
“The long for significance, the longing for love, the longing for deep and fundamental change, the longing for a way of life that works, the longing to connect experientially and even viscerally with Someone beyond ourselves—these longings led me to search out spiritual practices and establish life rhythms that promised something more.”
The Mystery of Transformation
It is God and God alone that causes the newborn to breathe and the caterpillar to spin the cocoon. Humans can facilitate the processes that lead to transformation, but only by God’s mystery does real transformation occur. The purpose of this study is to create the right heart-condition for transformation. The rest is up to God.
Here are a few ways we’ll prepare our hearts:
- Learn and apply the Spiritual Disciplines (defined below) discussed in each chapter of Sacred Rhythms.
- Become honest about what’s NOT working in life so we can form a plan that’s more congruent with the deeper longings of our hearts.
- Search out and confess our deepest desires in God’s presence so these become the driving force for deepening our spiritual walk.
What Are “Spiritual Disciplines”?
Spiritual Disciplines are a set of basic spiritual practices that keep us open and available to God. You’ve already been doing many of them for years, but some will be new. Sacred Rhythms will help us explore these disciplines systematically so you can know which ones work in concert to deepen your relationship with the Lord.
It’s like the ebb and flow of ocean waves—the tide goes in and out every day, but it’s spectacularly different each time because of the infinite Creator of the oceans. Or the notes in a piece of music—everyone learns the same scale, but true masters arrange the notes with different rhythms and instruments that reaches heaven.
Likewise, we will learn the same spiritual disciplines, but each of us will resonate with different practices in different rhythms to unlock our deepest longings. When we share those desires with our Creator, we have assumed that open posture to receive His most transformative work.
Community is actually considered by many to be a spiritual discipline. Though we won’t discuss it specifically in this study, we will live out the discipline of community by faithfully reading the chapter for the week, practicing the discipline, and then sharing your experience in the comment section if you feel led.
Community can mean different things to different people. Here’s what spiritual community is intended to be in this study’s context:
- This community provides a place to affirm we’re not alone in our quest to seek more from God—and realize we won’t always see, feel, hear, taste, or touch immediately while practicing the weekly discipline. (Again, our transformation is on God’s terms, not ours.)
- This community provides a place to focus on our personal relationships with God (not on prayer requests for Uncle Tom’s big toe). 😉
- This community provides a place to praise God for the transformation we see in our lives and in others.
In the final section of the post each week, I’ll share my personal experience from the week’s reading.
My experience from the Introduction focused on the opening quote—the fact that I have a choice to desire God. That desire is available to me at any time–a buffet of desires set before me each day, and it’s up to me to decide. Out of all the FABULOUS blessings set before me, will I choose the BEST One?
Please take the time to share YOUR personal focus from this week’s Introduction in the comments below!
I hope you’ll read Chapter 1 of Sacred Rhythms this week: Longing for More: An Invitation to Spiritual Transformation. It’s the bedrock upon which every other chapter will be built. Give yourself plenty of time to ponder it, and then come back next Friday to share your comments as the Lord leads!
- Sometimes real desire runs too deep for a quick spiritual fix.
- “…to desire and seek God is a choice that is always available to us.” – Elizabeth Dryer
- The purpose of spiritual disciplines is to create the right heart condition for transformation.
- Read Ch. 1 of SACRED RHYTHMS for 6/12/15 discussion @MesuAndrews http://mesuandrews.com/blog/
- Next week, we’ll delve deeper into naming our desires. What did you take away as a personal focus for this week’s introduction?