Before I begin, I’d like to thank my dear friend and mentor, Diane Awbrey, for encouraging me two years ago to venture on this blog project.
As you may know, I’ve been a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary the past year and half, with one more semester until I graduate with an M.A. in Spiritual Formation. Over this Christmas break and J-term, I realized that I have not consciously practiced any spiritual disciplines – not only in my seminary career but in my entire life. Ironically, I’ve gotten so caught up reading about ways to deepen my relationship with Christ that I’ve neglected to actually put into practice what I’ve learned. I’ve fangirled over the Christian mystics, monks, and nuns I’ve learned about because of the ways they practiced daily, deep reverence of God, but I have regretfully declined participating in the kinds of spiritual disciplines they lived every day. Why? I think it’s because spiritual disciplines take hard work and endurance. Enduring in hard work is not my strong suit; it hasn’t been since I was a young girl.
I have a vivid memory in the first grade of picking up the class coloring book during recess, examining each fanciful picture and deciding which to invest in. I remember choosing a coloring page with a dinosaur on it; I began coloring the dinosaur purple and green (I’m sure Barney would be proud), but then I got bored. The dinosaur failed to deliver coloring fun, so I did the unthinkable: I left it unfinished and turned the pages until I found a picture I liked better (sorry, Barney). I thought my class infraction would go unnoticed; however a few days later, another classmate was flipping through the coloring book, and with grief and anger on his face, he called out to the teacher, “Mrs. Aills! Someone didn’t finish this coloring page!” I never revealed my identity because, frankly, that classmate frightened me anyways – even when he wasn’t angry.
Fast forward about twenty years, and this tendency of un-finishing has prevailed in me, especially when it comes to spiritual disciplines. While I’ve sporadically practiced Sabbath, I’ve never dived fully into weekly pools of rest. While I think practicing Examen is a grand idea, I often watch Netflix before bed instead of reflecting with God about my day. My desire is not met by discipline. In this realization, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit gently drawing me to live into spiritual disciplines, believing what is stated in the Live Dead: The Journey devotional,
So, I’ve decided that the time is now to practice a new spiritual discipline each week, using Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us as my helpful guide. And per Diane’s advice, I will be writing about my experience with each practice, inviting you to discover spiritual disciplines you may have never heard of – maybe ones you’ll choose to try in your own life. I plan to continue this journey through the duration of my final semester at seminary, challenging myself to actually live the major I chose to study. After all, what is my spiritual formation study if I’m not being spiritually formed myself?
Among some of Calhoun’s listed spiritual disciplines (she’s written descriptions for 75 of them), I’ve made a list of ones I’ve been drawn to – whether that’s by familiarity, personal curiosity, or nervousness. “What will they be?” you may ask. “Time will tell,” I reply. In the weeks to come, you’ll be sure to witness my honest thoughts about each that I practice. And, warning, it may take awhile before discipline turns to delight. I hope to share with you my struggles with these disciplines – opening the window to my heart so you can authentically see what’s going on.
Through this process, this ‘spiritual discipline sampler,’ my chief goal is for us to experience God together in a deeper & truer way, that through learning about spiritual disciplines, we can truly ‘nestle closer to God’s heart.’ I invite your comments and thoughts throughout this journey.
One hint: “You’ll see!”