“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” – Jeremiah 29:13
I remember the sign on the men’s dorm wall during my freshman year at a Christian college.
A spiritual disciplines checklist was posted for us to keep track of our “progress” (monitored by a well-meaning resident assistant). I am wired for variety, not daily routines, and I felt ashamed every time I missed checking off the boxes in the “Jim J.” section: daily devotional time, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, tithing. (At least I got tithing – 10% of 0 income.)
I felt ashamed that I wasn’t measuring up, even to the point of checking boxes just so no one would know that I wasn’t making very good Christian progress. Good thing there was no box to check about honesty.
It was years later that a wise older friend and mentor taught me about true spiritual discipline. We laid aside the Bible study workbooks that had helped bring fulfillment to other men with whom he had met but had only frustrated me. He challenged me not to the discipline of a method but to the discipline of pursuing intimacy with God according to the way God wired me. I was no longer ashamed that I didn’t have a typical daily devotional time. I felt graceful permission to grow in spurts.
Commitment to the principle of understanding God’s love and truth is important. But sometimes commitment to a particular method for spiritual growth may be a hindrance. Many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had rigorous spiritual practices, which became their idol and actually hardened their hearts to matters of faith. A one-size-fits-all, “this is the right way to do it” approach to faith has left many followers of Christ discouraged and ultimately frustrated about pursuing a vital faith journey.
The authors of Soultypes write, “Each psychological type has a unique slant on spirituality.” Nurturing my love relationship with God may happen through any variety or combination of regular devotional or Scripture reading, meditation, journaling, retreats, small groups, mentorship, etc. Some people thrive on singing or writing worship music or other creative expressions of their faith, enjoying God in nature, serving those less fortunate. The possibilities are as endless as the individuality of people.
Aspects of the experience, such as a sense of accomplishment, learning, creativity, stimulating conversations, etc., may substitute for actual growth in God’s love. Whatever the practice is, I can ask myself, “Does this really help me to better receive and respond to God’s love?”
When I deepen my love for God in my own unique way, I set an example that helps others in my family do the same. It gives me a basis for joyfully encouraging their uniqueness and for trusting God’s guidance in the journey. This strengthens the idea that spiritual practices must be meaningful and relevant for the purpose of loving God, and not for the purpose of impressing anyone, including myself!
Apply It Now:
- Considering all the possibilities that I can think of, what practices might best help me to experience God’s love?
- How might I develop these practices further? (Those who are new to this concept can start small and ask God for guidance.)
This post is an excerpt from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.
Encouragement From a Dad Who’s Been There (Audio Download)
Jim recorded this 38 minute audio thinking about dads (although moms can listen too!). If your wife has recently been digging into our material and is urging you to “get on board!” this is a great place to start.