I’ve been thinking more over the last week about the idea that God seeks to transform us within the context of our own lives. I think this is an important point and deserves a bit more discussion.
God speaks to you and seeks to transform you from within your own context; in other words, through the circumstances unique to your own life. He uses the resources available in your own life to shape you and transform you, IF you are willing to respond appropriately (we’ll talk about appropriate response in a minute). The point, though, is that God does not need to use resources outside of your own life to shape you. You already have, in your own life, everything necessary for God to mold you into what he wants you to be. You don’t necessarily need a new job, or a new place to live, or new circumstances, or more formal education to become what God intends for you to become. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “A lot of shaping goes on on our way to something else.”
God uses the circumstances unique to your life – your conversations with others, your experiences, your thoughts, the books you read and the movies you watch – all of it serves as the crucible within which he seeks to forge your soul into what he’d like it to be.
Even Scripture, if disconnected from the context of your own life, becomes weakened in its ability to transform you. Scripture is meant to interact with your life, and only finds its power to transform you when it does.
That’s why learning to pay close attention to what is going on in your life, at a heart level, is so extremely important. It’s where God is most active and visible. God meets us where we are and asks us to follow him, from there, deeper into his life.
It’s also why living in the future is so disastrously unhelpful. Most of us are always reaching into the future and fretting about what might be there when we get there. Don’t get two steps ahead of God. Concentrate on, and try to understand what God is doing in you as you take this step. Only when this step is complete – when your foot is solidly back on the ground again – will you be able to see clearly where God wants you to step next.
So, what’s the correct response to God’s activity in your life? There are three of them, and if you’re familiar with Scripture, they won’t be surprising to you.
1) Deny yourself (in other words, surrender your agenda).
2) Take up your cross daily (in other words, sacrifice. Again, surrender your agenda).
3) Follow God where he leads you (this implies a willingness to be led, see points 1 & 2).
Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus essentially says the same thing in the first two points (Matt. 16:24)? Do you suppose it’s important????
This is so hard for us to learn to do. Almost nothing in the religious heritage most of us have inherited gives us any help here. That’s why spiritual fathers and mothers are so important – people who have learned how to follow God in the here and now. Spiritual fathers and mothers help others learn to discern God’s activity and calling in their own lives. They put others in touch with God’s activity in their own lives so they can cooperate with him. And it’s an intensive process for a while – just like parenting.
Spiritual parenting, at least as I’ve described it here, is something of a lost art, mostly because discerning the activity of God in one’s own life is something of a lost art. This is a developmental model of discipleship, but I believe it’s the only thing that will take us beyond where many of us have stalled.
Remember Jesus’ words: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).