Form: Shaping Spirituality Con-form

As we move through spiritual formation, we first are at the in-form stage. Then we are able to move into the pre-form stage. Some people realizing all the information gathered and all the lenses keeping us from maturing, seek out new lenses to help them develop and mature. When we are willing and able to put down our natural lenses, then we can step into the con-form stage.

Conforming is often thought of selling out or just not being your "true self". Who would want to be a conformist? Isn't this the thing that many people do not like about religion - religion makes you be something you are not in order to make you into something you would not choose to be. So it is often assumed that religion makes people into mindless, doctrine spewing, Bible quoting people who hate all people who are not of their clan.

Yea, who would want that?

This is not the same as the con-form step in spiritual formation.

Here is an example of conforming in the way I am attempting to get at.

When you step onto the soccer field to play a game, everyone on the field conforms to a set of shared understandings (often called 'rules') in order to develop as not only soccer players but as athletes. If I were to not conform my way of being to the game of soccer then I will never grow as a soccer player and in a greater sense I can even stagnate as an athlete (I could just hold the ball and sit there).

Similarly, when we conform to a shared understanding of living, then we grow not only as disciplined people but even more generally as spiritual formed beings.

There are a number of shared understandings that have come to us through the ages that help us spiritually develop. Silence, prayer, breathing, fasting, Sabbath observation, worship, service, alms giving, meditation, listening, devotion, acts of justice, etc.

If we want to be spiritually formed and mature, then we must move beyond seeking information and seeing the world only through our preformed selves, we must con-form our lives.

There is a story told by Anthony DeMelo which goes something like this:
A man asks the teacher "Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?" The teacher replied. "As little as you can do to make the sun rise." The student asks the teacher, "Then of what use are the spiritual practices you prescribe?" The teacher smiles and after a moments' pause looked at the student in the eye and said plainly, "To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise."

The step of con-form is a step in which we rely on a shared understanding of how to live. We may not like all the understandings, (just as I may not like the way a referee calls a soccer game), but we bend our lives and conform to these understandings. When we do so, we begin to be formed.

*Warning* Con-form is not a stage for the impatient or those seeking a quick fix. It is a stage in which we never 'graduate' from and move on from. It is really the foundational stage of spiritual formation. Without it we are aimless and wandering. We will never be a soccer player if we do not conform to the understanding of soccer and we will not mature if we are do not con-form to shared understanding of spiritual formation.