In today’s blog, Geoff Hsu whets our appetite for his virtual workshop Spiritual Formation: Life with God for the Life of the World, starting August 9. Limited spots remain, so register today!
What do you want?
Well, it turns out that I want lots of things… and yet perhaps I only really want one thing… or person.
We all have some scale of what is desirous and that which is less so. Sometimes what we desire is what we ought to desire. Sometimes we desire what we shouldn’t. There are times when we know why we desire what we should, but often we can’t explain why we don’t actually desire what we should.
Discipleship and Desire
I believe the formation of our soul is the central and primary task of discipleship. Spiritual formation into Christlikeness is the work of discipleship. To neglect spiritual formation is to hamstring our efforts at being faithful to our vocation as the church in the world today. Ignoring the dynamic and often mysterious desires of our soul can relegate our efforts to integrate faith, work, and economics into just the next ministerial fad and set of buzzwords. May it never be.
As I have been learning more about the complexity of my soul and the essential work of spiritual formation, I have begun to realize that much of what I want is to be all that God really had in mind for me when he first thought of me. I want to be and to do what I was created to be and do. I actually think this is what you want as well. I feel this sometimes… ok, often… like when I’m not the most loving person I should be. I want to be the husband and father that I should be…that I am called to be… and that I deeply long to be. When I listen closely, this is a deep desire.
But even deeper than that desire to be all that I have been called to be is the desire to be known and loved by the Caller. This is what we were created for. This is why sin is so tragic in the way it prevents us from knowing God. This is why Jesus’ work on the cross was so pivotal, opening the way for us, offering restoration, and meaning, and purpose. Knowing that I am the beloved of God, totally loved, completely forgiven is…
The challenge for us today is that these animating desires and longings can be easily satisfied by a counterfeit. Meaning and significance? I’ll find it in fame and glory in my profession. Or perhaps I’ll find it in how beautiful, smart and well-behaved my children are. I may tell myself I’ll find it in a growing and influential ministry.
Each counterfeit comes with its own set of desires.
Each alternative brings its own enslavement.
Spiritual Practices to Shape Desire
Discipleship and spiritual formation is the work of learning to live life in touch with the deepest longings and not be “distracted by their surface manifestations.” In her book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton continues by noting that:
“What shapes our actions is basically what shapes our desire. Desire makes us act and when we act, what we will do will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our personalities, minds and bodies—and to the strengthening or deterioration of our relationship to God, others and the world. The habits and disciplines we use to shape our desire form the basis for a spirituality.”
If desires shape our actions for better or worse, how do we shape our desires? Our challenge in discipleship is not that we want, but that we want the wrong things. How, in the words of Dallas Willard, do we fix our “wanters.”
Rule of Life
Historically, the saints that have gone before us have employed spiritual disciplines or spiritual rhythms to do this heavy lifting. Spiritual rhythms pursued with the right desire and with some structured consistency form what might be called “a rule of life.”
Barton again writes, “A rule of life is a way of ordering our life around the values, practices and relationships that keep us open and available to God for the work of spiritual transformation that only God can bring about.”
What do you want? Isn’t it to grow deeper in your relationship with the Caller? Don’t you want to satisfy the gnawing question of what you are called to be and do on Earth? Tired of chasing counterfeit desires that become gods that you are enslaved to ever satisfy?
Upcoming Virtual Workshop
Join us for a virtual workshop that will begin to explore the place of spiritual formation, rhythms, and a rule of life. This is an introduction intending to make a case for the centrality, indeed cruciality, of spiritual formation in teaching people how to follow Jesus, connecting our Sunday faith to Monday work. I invite you to join me on this journey.
Register for his virtual workshop Spiritual Formation: Life with God for the Life of the World, starting August 9.