You can read Part 1 of this series here.
I mentioned how evaluating spiritual maturity based on spiritual practices can be problematic, but by no means does this indicate that spiritual practices should be done away with altogether.
In fact, I’d argue that spiritual practices are necessary for growing spiritually, even if they might not be the most accurate indicators of spiritual maturity.
In other words, spiritual practices are not signs of spiritual maturity, but they are catalysts of spiritual maturity.
To succeed in any task, there is some form of practice or discipline that helps me to excel in that task, even if the task might be somewhat amorphis like “loving my wife,” a highly unquantifiable endeavor.
There are practices and disciplines that I must implement for a better marriage, for example, things like telling Tina how much I appreciate her, trying to serve her whenever I can, and actively listening to her whenever she speaks to me.
Growing in any area of my life takes work, and that work usually fleshes out as “practices” or “disciplines.”
Sidenote: Whether single or married, you should really pick up Tim and Kathy Keller’s new book The Meaning of Marriage. It’s an extraordinary book – one of the best books I’ve read on marriage with helpful advice to singles.
In it, the Kellers talk about how disciplines and practices can lead toward feelings of love in marriage. The same is true for the spiritual life! End of Sidenote
Alas, any kind of maturity takes work.
As I mentioned last time, some have to work harder than others due to nature/nurture, but nonetheless healthy maturing takes some measure of “a long obedience in the right direction,” as Eugene Petersen would say (Pete Scazzero calls building a framework of spiritual practices “Developing a Rule of Life.”
For each person the practices and disciplines are different. However, we all need some sort of discipline in order to grow more loving, more healthy, more whatever the aim might be.
At this point it’s easy to react by saying, “the spiritual life is all grace! you’re advocating some sort of works based system!”
Now, while it’s true that grace is the foundation of everything, we can too readily dismiss any type of healthy striving as an overreaction against anything that hints of dare I say, work.
The key, I believe, is that our end goal always be in mind when it comes to our disciplines – to fall more deeply committed and in love with Jesus – instead of having the list of spiritual disciplines as our measuring stick of spiritual maturity (a la the Pharisees).
In my next post, I’ll share one practice that has really challenged me this year, and I’ll mention the little book whence it came.