Form: Shaping Spirituality Pre-form

This is the second of five posts that address one way we are spiritually formed. The last post focused on In-form and how gathering information is just the starting (and not the apex) of spiritual formation, which might be a bit out of step with the way many of us were taught in the Church.

Once we gather a decent amount of in-formation, we begin to discover that we have not gathered pure and unmodified information. In fact, as we learn more about the world, we are aware that all the information we gain comes through a number of filters and lenses so that it modifies the information we gather.

There is a danger in thinking that any bit of information comes into our brains as pure and unbiased. We begin to think that what we learn is in fact nothing short of the absolute Truth. We become convinced that the way we see the world is not only the correct way but cannot understand why others do not see it the same way. "They" are morons and idiots. Be it the left or the right or anyone in between, when we buy into the idea that we encounter information as pure and untouched, we are heading down a road toward idolatry and not Christian spiritual formation.

But when we see that we all have different lenses we are using to see the world and these lenses color what we see and how we see, then we being to understand that just gathering information is not the apex of our spiritual lives. For many Christians we were taught the world looks like this image to the right.

This lens colors the way we see the world. So we think the world is kinda crappy and one day we will be in heaven and better. So we teach that people are fallen and broken and that God cannot be in the presence of sin. This makes total sense - if you are wearing these lenses. If you are not wearing these lenses, then the idea that humans are broken and fallen and "bad" is just plain nuts.

As we gather more information, we become aware that before we were in-formed we were pre-formed. We were born into a place and time and context that drives assumptions and language. We did not choose this and we are often unaware of our pre-formed natures.

Take for instance, that in different parts of the world colors mean different things. While I associate red with anger and desire, these are not universal. These associations were pre-formed in me - however I did not know that these bits of information were not universal until I saw this chart:

If the way I associate colors is shaped by my pre-formed self, then it is not the same for the way I understand God, my neighbor and my self?

I could go on about how our pre-form stage of spiritual formation takes into consideration things like the birth of formal operational thinking, the imaginary audience, and even the nature/nurture conversation. It could even be stated that many of us stay at the pre-formed stage which allows us to justify our actions. So we say things like "I was born this way" or "I was raised this way" or "I cannot help it". As though we are pre-formed and then come out as fixed creatures unable to change/adapt/evolve. When we remain in this stage and retard our spiritual formation, we are spiritually immature while feeling like we are advancing in our formation.

But the point is that when we are in-formed, we discover our pre-formed and then we are invited to take the next step: con-form.