The question of how spiritual growth happens is a very compelling to me. I am trying to wrestle with the question for myself, and figure it out as I go along in my writing. I hope you will share your feedback!
I believe in the idea that as a Christian person, it is a good idea for me to read and study the Bible and pray. In fact, I love doing those things! Disciplines cause growth, right? And yes, I would love to grow. Yet when I honestly examine my crazy, out-of-control schedule and the impact aforementioned lack of control has on my psyche, I realize that I really don’t a) study the Bible or b) pray much at all anymore.
Eleven years of age seemed to be the pinnacle of practicing spiritual disciplines in my life. At that time, I was a reader, studier, pray-er, and journal-er. I would definitely say I got a lot out of those disciplines, and I enjoyed them. I could FEEL the growing. I felt “close” to God. Perhaps it was my innocence, but those were certainly “times of sweet refreshing,” and I miss that.
At first I thought that the problem was just the lack of disciplines at all, so I’m trying to pick those up again. Not out of guilt, but out of desire. Sometimes out of desperation, piled on top of the desire.
Maybe I’m rusty, or maybe this year and all its joy and tragedy has left me completely emotionally drained, but I just don’t feel the spiritual life that I remember feeling in the past when I would approach these disciplines. I have felt this way on and off over a period of years, and I think that’s why ultimately I let my routine fall by the way-side – it wasn’t having the same impact, or I wasn’t feeling the right feelings in response to what I was doing, and that sense of deadness scared me so I just decided to shut it down.
Rather than dealing with my sense of spiritual deadness, I stopped engaging in the activities that were forcing me to confront it.
Lately, I have been bombarded with messages of Grace. Our pastor is preaching a sermon series on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he’s talked much about grace. I participated in the Living Proof Live Simulcast this past Saturday, and Beth Moore’s entire teaching was about grace. Ann Voskamp writes about applying grace to ourselves in everyday life, pretty much nonstop.
I think part of what made me feel good about my spiritual disciplines in the past, was the feeling that I was a good little girl for doing what I was doing – I felt good doing it all because it made me feel good about myself. Once that delusion is dissolved in the wake of grace, what is left?
I sit down at the Bible to start reading, and it sort of feels like chewing on rocks. I’m not getting anywhere. I’m a churched girl, I’ve read this book all my life, and yet somehow the passages seem disconnected from me and over my head. It’s like watching RGIII try to play football this season – it’s bewildering because we all know he knows what he’s doing, but somehow, going through the motions isn’t getting results. At least, not yet.
But I am tired of spiritually living vicariously through spiritual teachers, when I know that I have the tools that I need right in front of me. I don’t want to do what I’ve done so many times in the past, and walk away from the pieces when the puzzle gets too frustrating. I believe that the Word is Life, and that Jesus left me His Spirit that I might HAVE life, and have it abundantly.