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).

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

View Selections & Learn More >