Foundational Ideas about Formation (Part I)
#1: When it comes to formation, everything matters.
Formation happens in our ‘real’ lives, in time and space, constantly. Everything is forming us, all the time.
Formation is not only about the spirit. Human persons are embodied spirits, and as such, we cannot separate our spiritual selves from our physical, emotional and material selves. When you have a sick heart, your whole world likely feels sick, and vice-versa. Proverbs 17:22 says it pointedly, “A crushed spirit dries up the bones.” To over spiritualize our formation and distance it from the bodily experience of life is to foster deformation.
Formation then is more than our devotional life, although the devotional life is crucial. Formation is not only about how we pray or what we read – it occurs in every turn of the life that we live. We are impacted not just by our thinking but by our interactions, by our responses to life, by where we put our focus. Formation is wholistic. Formation is happening even when we are completely unaware of its power.
The choice we are able to make, then, is not whether or not we will participate in being formed, deformed, reformed, whatever. The fact is that all of us are in that process all the time. It cannot be stopped. The choice we have is whether or not to consciously cooperate with our own formation.
To consciously cooperate we will listen for the divine invitations that rise out of the heart of God and echo in our own heart.The formative posture of the heart, then, is “yes, Lord.”
To consciously cooperate we will not ignore the people and happenings of our life. They are the stuff of our ordinary unfolding. The dispositions of compassion, patience, gentleness and forgiveness will be developed in a context of growing wisdom.
What we listen to or watch, who we spend time with in play or work, what we chose to buy, wear, use, all 0f these contribute to our formation or deformation. Don’t underestimate the power of your choice.
Think about it: What happened in your life today? Walk back through your day and list some moments, connections. Notice where you experienced a sudden change in emotion, or a heightened response. In reflection allow Jesus to join you in those moments and bring peace, insight or healing. Perhaps you will hear a divine invitation and find the courage to say,”yes, Lord!”