Excerpt from Life with God

Here is a desperately needed grace for all those who are earnest about the Spiritual Disciplines: freedom from taking ourselves too seriously; it is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. After all, Jesus was accused of being a partygoer, eating and drinking with disreputable men and women. Many of us are so circumspect we could not even aspire to such accusations.

Paul cautions us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3). We can also avoid thinking of ourselves more often than we ought to think. The guideline of traveling light is a guard against the besetting sin of being overly interested in our own piety.

The discipline of celebration is a bracing antidote to religious solemnity. It loosens our grip on self-consciousness and brings us back down to earth on the level playing field of our common humanity. We can laugh at ourselves and with others, free of a judgmental spirit that is constantly sizing up one against the other. We are all in this together. 

Although there is nothing like celebration for a bracing plunge into earthy and festive hilarity, there are all kinds of ways to retrain body and mind to lighten up. Volunteering to serve with those who teach preschoolers will refresh our spirits with the naturally unself-conscious play of little children, whose curiosity and enthusiasm are infectious. Pleasurable walks or bicycle rides can help us slow down and enjoy the simple goodness of bodily health and outdoor sights, sounds, and fragrances. Instead of praying with words, we can let the images of visual art or the wordless themes of instrumental music carry our heart to God. 

Experimenting with the Disciplines helps us remember that it is not the form of practice but the substance of heart that matters. Trial and error reminds us that we are like children taking first steps. Sometimes we run ahead and stumble; other times we hesitate, waiting for the Divine Guide to beckon us forward. But we are always confident that the Holy Spirit is guiding us into all truth. 

Excerpted from Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Formation by Richard J. Foster (HarperOne-HarperCollins, 2008).

Join the 2023 – 24 Renovaré Book Club

An eight-month journey to help you read for transformation, not just information. We carefully select four books, then provide a reading plan, weekly podcasts, live Q&As, and spaces for meaningful discussion online and in-person.

Learn More + Join >