Now that we are just a little over ten days into 2011, it seems appropriate to re-look all those resolutions made in the euphoria of a new year. I’m not bailing on any that I’ve made. At least, not yet. No, I’m resolutely convinced that the things to which I’ve committed myself are entirely worthwhile.
And yet, I want to be careful to guard against a certain mentality that comes with spiritual commitments of this type. I am all to aware of how prone the human heart (and yes, that includes my own) is towards twisting something good and life-giving into a caricature of what it was meant to be. I don’t want to end up there, nor do I want to lead anyone down that path.
These gifts of the Word and prayer were meant to lead us to the One who gives life. They don’t do so in themselves. Over the past couple days, I’ve been wrestling with how to express my concern for putting too much stock in these sorts of spiritual practices, but I wasn’t quite able to find the right words.
Thankfully, I found those words (as I often do) in the writing of another.
I’ve been looking forward to cracking open Scot McKnight‘s One.Life for a couple weeks now, and when I did he had this to say early on…
we will also see that the personal practices of piety, like Bible reading and praying and going to church and other spiritual disciplines, have a place but they are a means to the end. They are not the goal, and they can’t measure adequately who is a Christian or who is a follower of Jesus. p. 24
Or as Richard Foster described the pathway of spiritual disciplines in his classic The Celebration of Discipline...
The path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. p.8
So with reminders like these, hopefully I’ll be able to avoid that thing that exists inside each of us, especially religious people, and most especially professional religious people, to draw attention to “spiritual” achievements. “Look at me!” “Think highly of me.” “Be like me.”
Too easily my grandiose goals of reading and memorizing and praying are motivated out of a desire to impress God and/or others. And while we may have some success with the latter, with the former… well, not so much.