I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheel. Jeremiah 18:3
I am concerned about my spiritual formation. The desire is there, the plan and execution is lacking. What would you suggest to address this? I just don’t seem to be able to get into the rhythm of prayer and time in Scripture. It may be in part that I have so many options and so much time in the day that I fail to narrow my focus. Anyway – I know this is not healthy and not sustainable, I want to live differently but I just can’t seem to find the way forward. Any input you could provide would be very helpful.
I think you are at a critical season in your journey with Jesus and your spiritual formation. If you are not careful the urgent will impinge upon the important and crowd it out. In the name of urgent things like, making a living, going to church, playing with kids, loving your wife, going to functions with your children, socializing with your friends, and a myriad of other very important things it is easy to kick the “Soul Formation/Care” can down the road and say to yourself that you will get to it with things settle down a little.
The fact that you are even self-aware enough to ask me the question encourages me that you might not make the mistake(s) that plagued me when I was trying to build my church kingdom, and raise you and your brothers.
Remember what Dallas Willard told John Ortberg when Ortberg asked him for advice as he took the position as Teaching Pastor the largest Church in the country at that time, Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, “John, you much ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” At that time Ortberg was in his 30’s with three young children in his home with huge professional responsibilities. I say that to you to say if he can do it, you can do it.
The details of how you and Ashley do that are going to be peculiar to your family culture, rhythms and dynamics, but when you and Ash elevate the value of Soul Formation/Care to the highest level—you will find a way to make the details happen without sacrificing the well-being of your family.
My friend John K., who has young kids, told me that when his kids got old enough to be in sports that he and his wife decided that they would steer their kids in the athletic direction that would virtually ensure that the kids wouldn’t have to be in a “game” on a Sunday. That meant that they were in “Dance” or “Fencing” or “Tennis” or “Wrestling”—a non-team sport. His kids got the athletic experience, but they didn’t have to battle the practice and games on Sunday conflict. That is just an example of the parental choices some have made to protect what is of most important.
This is a team effort you and Ash need to embark upon. You are good at this, but you might need to tag-team some solitude time so that you can go deep with the Lord. Start out slowly and incrementally like you would train for a marathon. Take 15 minutes of protected alone time with you and the Holy Spirit. Do the basics in that time space: Lectio Divina, Listening Prayer, and Journaling. Then, as you become more comfortable, up the time incrementally. Make sure you work out a way so that Ashley can do the same thing. This will be much more effective if you do this as co-leaders in the family. If both aren’t’ committed to this you won’t be able to sustain this value. Be aware that your wife’s might look different than yours.
Together you and Ash might try something your mother and I often do: Consolation and Desolation. Click on this link to my blog entitled The Beauty and the Brutal where I describe what that is. It is a good way to jointly connect with each other about what is going on in your souls.
I also recommend something that I think you guys could do remarkably well. Develop some family practices like Sabbath keeping. Study how orthodox Jewish families practice Shabbat. I know you could make this work as a family tradition that would be so helpful for your souls and your family.
- Light a Sabbath candle
- Observe a Sabbath communion
- As father, you could touch and pray a Sabbath blessing on each child.
- As mother, Ashley might light the candle and with hand gestures, pantomime pulling the light of the candle to her face in a waving motion as she prays Sabbath blessing on the family.
- Sing a Sabbath song together as a family
- Pray a Sabbath prayer together as a family.
Hope that helps a little. I am very encouraged that you even asked the question, son. I don’t remember thinking this way when I was twenty nine. You are giving me hope that the sins of the father are not going to be passed down to the third and the fourth generation.