Form: Shaping Spirituality: Trans-form

In a final post about a way of spiritual formation, we will look at transform.

I credit Rev. Nancy Allen on the following visual. She said she got it from a Companions in Christ study, but she was not sure where she first saw it.

It is one of the better ways I have come across to describe what a transformation through spiritual formation "looks" like.

Many of us begin to talk about God in abstract terms and use language that speaks of God as "out there". As such, we relate to God as an "other" not related to the self (see fig. 1).

Some people find that to talk about God in the abstraction is not helpful or "Biblical" and so there is a very powerful movement in which there is a talk of getting Jesus into your heart. Whereas in fig 1 God is outside of the self, in fig 2 God dwells in the temple of the body.

The fact of the matter is in both fig 1 and fig 2, the protagonist is the human being. Fig 1 has the human story and God's story moving in parallel. There are times when the stories come close (Christians call these mountaintop experiences or thin places) but they do not touch. Fig 2, God becomes a personal deity in which prayers are offered and the person who prays them becomes convinced that God does not love them but is in love with them. This is parodied in this SNL sketch:

Jesus (Phil Hartman): Tina.. Tina.. all I'm saying is, prayers like, "Please don't let the rice get sticky." You know. 
Tina (Sally Field): Yeah! Yeah! 
Jesus: I mean, do you really need My help with stuff like that? See? 
Tina: [ crying profusely into her apron ] I'm very, very sorry..! I guess I was justwasting your time..! I certainly wish you had told me about this sooner..! 
Jesus: Well, I thought about it, and I decided to finally say something.. 
Tina: Oh, God, I'm so embarrassed..! 
Jesus: Well, believe me, there are a billion people with the same problem! [ chuckling ] 

Notice in this sketch and in fig. 2, the person center stage is not God, but the human. 

Through the process of reforming, we are transformed. Fig. 3 visually expresses that when we are transformed we are not longer looking as God or hold God in our heart, but we become enveloped in God. We have our story but our story is just one story of God's story. We have a relationship with God, but the relationship is not exclusively ours.

Fig 3 is a life transformed. The protagonist of fig. 3 is not the human - it is God. 

Transformation is beyond being a better person. It is beyond doing good or living by the golden rule. If we are religious or spiritual just to be better people, then the main actor in our lives is still, well, us. 

Rather, the call of Christian spirituality is a call to transform so that we are no longer the main player in our lives. We are not the protagonist. Transformation leads us to losing our story in God's story so that God's story becomes our story.

Spiritual formation is about moving toward fig 3. It is about being formed so that we are not the center of the action in our life. It is about learning God's story so that God's story becomes our story.

Spiritual formation is bound together in information, preformation, conformation, reformation, and transformation.