My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you… Galatians 4:19
Spiritual Formation is the beautifully mysterious way of Jesus – demonstrated in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus Christ formed in our likeness, that we might become like him through a similar process of Spiritual Formation. The phrase is currently the best set of vocabulary we have to describe the journey of faith as a process, because it is spiritual in nature and it involves a deep process of forming and re-forming throughout one’s entire lifespan.
How does Spiritual Formation work?
Spiritual Formation is rooted in the way and heart of Jesus and takes us through a process of maturation and deep integration.
Jesus’ human life took many years to develop. Jesus was present at the Creation yet allowed himself to go through the process of being formed under the influence of earthly parents, rabbis, baptism, wilderness, and a season of leadership development. He learned to listen to his Father, partner with the Spirit, as well as grow strong emotional maturity through relational drama, human suffering, and even agonizing physical death. If Jesus himself can go through a process of formation, we can too. And, because Jesus offers us his strength from the position of resurrection, we know full transformation is possible, even when it involves death!
Maturation always requires integration. When Jesus invites us to follow him, we must accept the lifelong journey and open to the process of Jesus’ way integrating into every aspect of our souls. This is the most difficult work of Spiritual Formation. No matter how painful or uncomfortable the process of formation becomes, we surrender to the integration process where we see old ways dying off, new ways being established, and our true character mirroring the way and heart of Jesus.
We witness the integration work of Spiritual Formation when our theology matches our practice, our ability to hold paradoxical mysteries of the faith expands, and healthy emotional muscles strengthen our capacity for love. Because above all, Spiritual Formation is exemplified in the maturity of our love – love of God, love of others, love of self, and ultimately love of our enemy.
By Yvonne Biel