Do you ever feel discouraged that your real life doesn’t quite match up with the Christianity you profess? Despite your best efforts of being a good Christian and having regular quiet times and worship, the abiding peace the Scripture talks about seems outside of your grasp? Or if you are not a Christian, do you struggle with life not being what you had hoped it would be?
If we are honest, we all have experienced that struggle. I know I have and still do. Why is spiritual process so difficult and what keeps us from growing in our love for God and service to Him?
A key point to understand is what prevents us from experiencing our life in Christ as intended is our unhealthy mindset. Ryan Rush in his book Walls discusses a wall as an unhealthy mindset that prevents us from experiencing life as God intended for us to live. This is a great analogy. It is very common to talk about how we “put up walls” so we can protect ourselves so others do not see who we really are. James Bryan Smith, in his book The Good and Beautiful God, refers to this as false narratives. As we experience life we start to learn false narratives about who we are. These narratives are powerful and, if we let them, they drive how we conduct our lives and how we relate to God.
For example, a false narrative I have had to grow from is the idea that I must be perfect. This narrative at times robs me from accepting Gods gift of love freely because I do not think I deserve it or have not done enough to earn it.
Triangle of Transformation
How can we break down these walls and develop a healthy mindset? One way to think about spiritual growth is through the “triangle of transformation” as discussed by Mr. Smith in his book previously mentioned. There are four elements to this triangle. Yes, I know a triangle only has 3 sides, but this will make sense in a minute!
Adopting Jesus Narratives
We need to expose our walls and false narratives to the light of the truth in the narratives of Jesus life. When we take the time to know Jesus and see how He really lived, we see the character and nature of God. We tend to live by our false narratives because they are so familiar to us it feels like the truth. How often it has felt like the truth to me that I am a disappointment to God. But when I expose that narrative to the truth of the Gospel, I begin to experience healing and freedom. Paul says to “to be transformed by the renewing our minds”. So the first step to transformation is exposing the lies to the truth of God we learn from Jesus narratives.
Practicing Soul Training Exercises
Getting our minds right is a start, but we want to allow these truths to impact us to the depths of our soul. I have heard many people say they know God loves them “in their head” but they don’t experience His love in the heart. Spiritual practices allow this transformation to occur.
I love to play golf, but I rarely practice. I get very frustrated with myself when I make irregular visits to the driving range and find little growth in my game. How much better would my game be if I practiced regularly, took some lessons, and played more rounds of golf? It is somewhat like that with our spiritual journey. We want God’s peace and to experience the depth of His love, but we will struggle without incorporating spiritual exercises that complete the head-heart connection. Paul talks about Gods word and uses the term training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). Soul training exercises are an important component of seeing spiritual growth.
Participating in Community
This one can be a real challenge. We are tempted to put on our mask with our Christian friends, so they do not see our struggles. It’s hard to be transparent and real with others. However, we were never meant to be lone rangers. We are wired for connection. It is so important to find a group of people who you can experience your spiritual journey together. In community, you can encourage each other to attack the false narratives, to stay strong in spiritual practices, and to talk about your struggles and pray for each other.
Surrounded by the Holy Spirit
The fourth element in the triangle is recognizing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit over all three sides of the triangle. We can try to follow the three aspects of the triangle but if we exclude the Holy Spirit from our journey, it would be like trying to drive a car without any fuel. The Holy Spirit is the catalyst that fuels the change in our lives. Without the Spirit, we will be stuck with that same discouraged feeling of not experiencing change. We might look good on the outside to others but will miss out on the growth we so deeply long for.
Is there more to life? Is it possible to live freely and experience the peace of God that passes all understanding? You bet! With patience and persistence, as we walk out each day and follow the steps outlined in the triangle, we will put ourselves in a position to hear more clearly from God and experience His life changing presence.
Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, please help us to adopt the true narrative for our lives, spend time in Soul training with you, and help us to experience this growth in community with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.