In a time when discipline is pushed aside due to pragmatism, spiritual theology is pushed aside due to evangelical lethargy. It is a daunting task to set spiritual goals when they may be in a near future altered by our schedules, children, and completing the list, we have our fallenness, which only directs our circumstances away from spirituality.
The Christian life is less than appealing when we consider that the usual outcome of spirituality may be the ever powerful attack of evil forces (Satan) on the godly. Similar to Lewis’ works on spirituality, the Evil One never ceases to attack the godly. It appears that the better prepared a Christian is to face temptations, the more intense is the bombardment. On the other hand, Spiritual Theology by Simon Chan has significantly helped me to wrestle with these tensions. Digesting this work has encouraged me with a list of viable options to enhance my experience and to harmonize the struggles with the exhilarating moments of joy in my Christian life.
It is my desire to pursue goals that are realistic rather than forceful. Chan writes similarly when he speaks of those who in the beginning found contentment with their new goals, but with time found them to be overwhelming and abandoned the practice altogether.
Another difficulty in establishing a rule of life is that as Chan puts it, “embracing the rule of life means allowing our lives to be reconstituted by this new pattern” (pg.150). There are severe implications to a new pattern of living. Nevertheless, embracing a simple life is an art by which with proper exercising life will resemble more and more the image of Christ. In thinking about these profound issues I have sought aid in the idea of submission to Christ. In submission there is comfort in knowing that my errors in this process will only lead me to depend even more on Christ.
Regarding a plan for developing a spiritual life I have considered a similar pattern to what Chan offers:
I. A period of heart preparation seems necessary. This I call the “cleansing process” which I liken to the washings of the priests before they entered the tabernacle.
II. After cleansing, I have chosen to continue my annual reading of the Scriptures rather than the one or two chapters divorced from its redemptive history. Sometimes during this year I may choose to read a book with a devotional nature such as Jerry Bridges or John Piper. I prefer to call this transition “Spiritual Nourishment.”
III. Further, I have set a time for short meditation on the spiritual significance of what was read and what may be its direct application to my life. This is called “Holy Reflection.”
IV. Then, a time of prayer which would follow common liturgy. A) Praise/Adoration, B) Thanksgiving, C) Petition, D) Praying for consistency in my devotional life. This is entitled: “Holy Conversation.” This is a genuine interaction with God.
V. Finally, singing should be the “Response of Gratitude.” This could be a hymn or a Psalm that expresses my present sentiments. It may be about an attribute of God or the regular Christian experience.
This seems to be an attainable pattern of life. It should take approximately 20-25 minutes. By God’s grace with proficiency it may increase. In time I pray it may become as natural as my academic pursuits or my daily interactions with my wife.
This is the most profound and substantial foundation for my new rule (pattern) of life. Therefore, it seems only logical that all other forms of spiritualities should be a compliment to this rather than an additional exercise. For example, one way of implementing another idea to this foundation is found in the common theological area of general revelation. Perhaps my devotional time would be enhanced in content if it were done in the context of nature. Whether in the woods or near a lake (which I have access) or on a location where my eyes could visibly engage the mountains and valleys. All these experiences will accentuate and heighten the spiritual capacity to adorn my soul with God’s aroma and presence.
A final observation regards the remainder activities of the day. It is a fact that when the business of my academic life begins I quickly lose sight or even forget the experience I have had. One way to eliminate this difficulty is to reserve the spiritual devotion to the end of the day. However, this does not seem like a possible alternative since I function better in the early part of the day. In order to help in this dilemma I have proposed a few ideas used primarily by early saints. These ideas will solidify Paul’s command to pray without ceasing. Chan calls these “ejaculatory prayers.” These are prayers that can be uttered or consciously thought about throughout the day. To make this practice vivid I have committed to read and memorize certain portions of the Book of Common Prayer which I have found to be an invaluable treasure.
It is my prayer that this new rule of life may be light rather a legalistic burden. I have hope that in God’s grace He may find mercy on me, a sinner, and permit me to enjoy the richness of the Christian faith.