Lately, I have had several dreams about organizing and preparing for a teaching assignment, a presentation or an event. In the dreams, I’m recruiting volunteers or creating an agenda or writing PR material or lining up a venue or outlining a talk. The creative thinking (and the pressure) are so real that it takes several moments after I wake up to convince myself that it wasn’t true. I can relax and not worry about what was still to be done. Since I spent a lifetime doing these things, I suppose it’s not unusual to dream about them now that I have mostly given them up. Or maybe that’s why I have the dreams.
Anyway, the dreams prompted me to muse about the concept of preparation, whether in real life or in the land of dreams. It seems that being prepared is the first requirement of success. Think about athletes getting ready for a track event such as a pole vault. They train to stay strong and fast. They practice take-offs and landings. They learn to make adjustments for wind and weather. They make sure they have the proper pole and the proper shoes. They work with their coach to eliminate bad habits and to increase their focus. And then they focus on the positive attitude that makes it all come together. Nothing about an athlete’s performance is left to chance.
It occurs to me that preparation is also a necessity in our spiritual lives. Perhaps “spiritual formation” is really a description of our preparation to be ready for God. The spiritual disciplines, then, train us to present to God’s voice in our lives. For example:
Surrender – letting go on a moment by moment basis is the practice that trains us to choose God. We let go of attitudes, of bad habits, of living without focus, of controlling ever decision, of being upset when we don’t get what we want. Surrender is necessary so we can choose to put God first.
Detachment – we need to detach from things that get in the way of living like Jesus: possessions, desire for approval, addiction to our own thinking, need to fix or control others. Detachment teaches us that the things in our lives and the ambitions of our mind hamper our absorbing the values of the Beatitudes or the lifestyle of Matt. 25:34 -45.
Silence – freedom from noise, from confusion, and in general as well as becoming comfortable with silence, helps us listen for and hear what the Holy Spirit is whispering to us.
Solitude – regularly being alone (without devices, without companions, without faceless crowds, and without busyness) trains us to wait for God, to rely on the Spirit’s presence, to learn the discipline of living like Jesus.
If we don’t prepare for the “with-God” life, how can we ready when God gives us direction or offers comfort or whispers his love or helps us on our path as apprentices of Jesus.
Jonathan Bailey, Renovare Board of Renovare member, puts it this way
“When it comes to growing in grace, God is always the primary mover, the initiator. Our job is to pay attention and respond. François Fénelon put it just right, “The wind of God is always blowing… but you must hoist your sail.” Practicing the Spiritual Disciplines is about cooperating with grace, it’s simply sowing seed upon the soil of our soul. God causes the growth, first the blade, then the head, and then the mature grain. (Mark 4:28) Our job is to sow, His job is to grow” (Jonathan Bailey in jonathanrbailey.com on May 6, 2018).
Training for the with-God life is “cooperating with grace.” Let’s sow, so God can help us grow.