formation through practice
Over the centuries, as Christians have tried to figure out this stuff, they came up with a bunch of ways they noticed were effective at making room for God to crack us open and get to work in us. Some writers have called spiritual practices ‘channels of grace,’ that is, conduits for us to receive help to do what we’re unable to do on our own. As well as opening up a space for us to receive from God, these practices are also ways for us to take a long hard look in the mirror and get honest about our own lives. That place of honesty and humility really is the only place for true change to get started in us.
There are many great Christian writers and theologians over the years who have explained far better than I can the how and the why of spiritual practices (I list some of those authors below). I offer an explanation in my own words simply because I grew up thinking of spiritual disciplines as something that you do so that you can get a check mark against your name when it comes to being a ‘good Christian,’ Maybe there are others out there like me.
I have come to appreciate spiritual practices in a different way and I invite you to join me on that journey. I see now that, if I am to live the abundant life of freedom Jesus promised and become a blessing to the world, there are certain ways in which I need to be changed. These practices are to help me learn to stop living in that old way and to help me learn to live in a new way, until that new way becomes a habit. Indeed, at certain times in my life I might become aware of particular ways in which God is inviting me to change - times when I become especially aware of patterns of impatience, or a lack of self-control, say. There are practices which might help me in that particular season of my life to strengthen myself in the place where I am weak. The goal of these spiritual practices is not to become experts in them, it’s to use them to become mature. By repeatedly doing something we allow it to re-form us until we come to look a lot more like Jesus.
And that's the goal of it all: for us to become more fully ourselves (our true selves) as we grow to resemble Jesus more and more. This is the way of freedom and Life.
To read more about Christian practices as channels of grace in our formation as the people of God, go to the article here.