As we were talking last night, my wife posed the question of whether or not this series directly answers the question:
“All right, I really do want to be like Christ. You have convinced me that it is only as I walk with him and become really like him that I can know the fullness of life for which I was created. Now tell me precisely how to go about it.”
I think it does. I begin with a few broad pieces that are universally applicable. Then I switched gears into the Tools for the Journey posts. These, admittedly, will find varying degrees of applicability from person to person, and this reveals something important about spiritual direction: there are few universals.
Take for example a post at First Things suggesting a means for immersing oneself in Scripture. It is a great idea, the nexus of which is to read the Bible through 20 times, not end to end, but one book at a time. It is a very sound strategy for building depth of Biblical literacy, but it is not an idea I am currently adopting. If it is such a good idea, why not?
First, persistence is how we grow. When we choose a path, we must follow it for a while before we learn where it will lead us. If we are always turning at the next branch, we never find out where any of the paths lead, and we often end up traveling in circles. I’m not looking for a new method of Scripture reading currently, so no matter how interesting an approach sounds, I have no business abandoning what I am doing for something else. Novelty does not produce maturity.
Second, it does not meet a current need in my development. This gets to the core of why I have proposed so many tools. Different people have different issues and different needs at different times. While I may have used and benefited from a particular devotional practice, you may not have heard of it, and you have likely benefited from ideas I have not heard of or employed.
If you and I were sitting together talking about spiritual development and you were seeking my advice, I wouldn’t throw the 29 previous posts in this series at you. I would try to listen and discern where you might need something new or different to continue to move you toward Christ-likeness. That’s how spiritual direction works and it’s how Jesus seems to have worked. He told Nicodemus to be born again. He told the Rich Young Ruler to sell everything he had. Different men with different needs that Jesus was able to pinpoint and address.
Finally, there are some things I have not written about in this series. There are some pretty basic spiritual disciplines that I don’t feel I have enough experience with to really say anything about. (Arguably, all of them fall into that category to a degree.) I hope to eventually be able to address some of them, but I’m not there yet. Maybe I need someone to prompt me to move in that direction.