Process Theology!

How do we effectively process all the stuff that God does in our lives through events, people and circumstances?

Peter Baker | 20:09, Saturday, 28 January 2011

I don’t intend here to enter the debate concerning the limits of God’s Sovereignty and His openness to change in response to human self determination!  Is divine Omnipotence coercive or persuasive- maybe we can engage with that some other time!

My current purpose is more devotional. How do we effectively process all the stuff that God does in our lives through events, people and circumstances?  Many of us live at such a pace, that we don’t have the time, it seems, to celebrate our victories or mourn our losses. We climb the next hill of challenge, and tomorrow’s mountain of opportunity, before we have properly absorbed the lessons of yesterday, allowed the bruises to heal and the energy levels to be restored. 

We live in an outcomes based society where reflection is often presented as the enemy of production, where results are everything! Nothing must hold us back from moving forward, so we plant the flag on the next horizon, march towards it and invite people to join us!

This approach is psychologically damaging because the heart  (which in biblical understanding is the place where the intellectual, moral, volitional and emotional aspects of who we are converge) needs time to process the implications of what we have experienced and learned.

I need to reflect on what happened to me and why. I need to ask what the event has taught me about God, life, and faith, about my disposition, my weaknesses and strengths. I need to ask -  would I respond differently next time, and if so, how?

If I don’t engage meaningfully in such self reflection, I may end up neglecting to thank God for His goodness, repeating the mistakes of the past or failing to fully let go - where I need to - and move on.

More than that, if I don’t stop to think, digest, confess, I may simply take a whole bunch of unresolved issues into the next chapter of my life, with damaging consequences for me and the next group of people I meet on my journey.  What might have been a positive growth point becomes in this hurry and worry scenario just another event on a CV.

But in addition to poor psychology, it’s dodgy theology. Jesus models a life in which he consistently cultivated solitary places where he prayed. Often the gospel writers portray Jesus as deliberately getting away from the crowds to be alone with His Father. 

Such spiritual formation of the interior life is something which the Contemplative tradition of the Christian Church has been particularly good at encouraging.

The Activist tradition, inspired in part and among other things by the Protestant work ethic, has not helped us to develop the disciplines of the soul – meditation with the Word and prayer, confession of sinful patterns of behaviour, formation of character that is the product of substantial as opposed to superficial change. 

I have just walked through a particularly demanding month, for all sorts of reasons, both personal and professional. I’d be a fool to deny the cumulative impact at an emotional and physical level of the very different challenges I have faced, and continue to face.

The battery needs to be recharged and the tank refuelled at regular intervals. Part of that process involves an intentional commitment to have a good look inside. And yet to do that without the dangers of self absorption.

The aim in this sort of process theology is to stay focused on Christ. He is after all the source of my recovery, His Spirit the wind beneath my wings, His Word my meat and drink.
This is more than taking a day off or celebrating a Sabbath rest once a week; this is about inner change and lasting the distance.

I was struck by a statistic that referred to the fact that only 30% of Christian Leaders last. I’m going to blog about it next time ! But for now, stop and think… what part does burn out play in such a scenario ? And what might be different if we all, leaders too, learned to process our lives , as well as pace them more effectively?

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