The wisdom of Yoda insists: Do or do not, there is no try. But, what if instead of trying or doing we spent more time at being? More time settling into who we are, what we are, where we are, when we are. I find myself exerting so much of my energy and time in changing myself and my surroundings. As a perfectionist (Enneagram one), I desire for things to be made right, to be put in their proper place, to be healed, mended, restored, made better and complete. To be sure, this is by no means an unhealthy desire, but what if some things are already as they should be? Who am I to try and make better that which the Creator already calls good? Upon taking a moment to observe the world around me, I find that creation often doesn’t struggle with self-identity. The tree doesn’t strive for more treeness in its life, nor does the mountain try to do things more mountainy. They simply are what they are because of the Creator.
“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God…walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?”
–Matthew 6:26, 28–
Spiritual formation and the classic Christian disciplines are not so much about doing but being. You may be thinking, “Wait, aren’t we supposed to practice spiritual disciplines?” Absolutely! But, we must first understand the purpose of practice. Think of the aspiring basketball player. She steps out onto the court for the first time and immediately wants to be able to crossover past her opponent and sink every three-pointer. But, it often doesn’t begin that way, right? It starts with what we refer to as: the fundamentals. These are the techniques and drills that we practice over and over until they become more natural, they become a part of us—what we call “second nature.” Then, one day the same ball player steps onto the parquet floor, and she not only swishes every time she shoots but also recovers every rebound, gets the assist, and utilizes the triple-threat position.
How does all this relate to spiritual disciplines? Some friends of mine put it this way:
A discipline is an intentional activity I can do easily that will help me do what I cannot do naturally or automatically. This requires a purposeful change in normal activities and patterns of habit.¹
In other words, we practice the way that Jesus lived, so that it becomes more natural to us. All the while, we must keep in mind that spiritual formation only takes place by submitting ourselves to the Spirit. We can’t make ourselves more like Jesus, but we can receive the grace of Christlikeness. You might call this “keep[ing] in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) or “learn[ing] the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29).
“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out…Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.”
–Matthew 6:33, 34–
Worry not. Practice, receive and learn to be.
- “Lament Experiment” by The Practice: http://www.practicetribe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/The-Practice-Scandrette-Handout-draft2.pdf.