If we do not possess an interior spiritual life with God that is rich and meaningful, can we effectively nurture the faith of others? Do we have a balance between “doing” and “being” in our lives – are we balancing activity and contemplation? If we are emotionally unhealthy and are in a state of partial attention, if we are on auto pilot spiritually, if we are constantly exhausted and frazzled, can we expect to be able to present an authentic and attractive faith?
This past weekend I had the opportunity to hear Peter Scazzero, pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York speak to a group of pastors at a retreat. Peter strongly believes that it is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. He suggests that we need to go back into our negative generational family patterns and deal with who we are, before we can go forward spiritually and become emotionally healthy Christians. Additionally, he suggests that in order to deal with our current culture of narcissism, speed, and fragmentation, we need a greater emphasis on contemplative spirituality. In his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality he lists the following characteristics of living contemplatively:
- awakening and surrendering to God’s love in any and every situation;
- positioning ourselves to hear God and remember his presence in all we do;
- communing with God, allowing him to fully indwell the depth of our being;
- practicing silence, solitude, and a life of unceasing prayer;
- understanding our earthly life as a journey of transformation toward ever increasing union with God;
- finding the true essence of who we are in God;
- loving others out of a life of love for God;
- developing a balanced, harmonious rhythm of life that enables us to be aware of the sacred in all of life;
- adapting historic practices of spirituality that are applicable today;
- allowing our Christian lives to be shaped by the rhythms of the Christian calendar rather than the culture; and
- living in committed community that passionately loves Jesus above all else.
Through uniting emotional health and contemplative spirituality, Scazzero suggests that we can be given three gifts that allow us to better participate in the redemptive and transformative power of Jesus Christ in today’s world. These gifts are:
- Slowing down (paying attention to God, being with him, loving God and others well)
- Anchoring in God’s love (moving our understanding of God’s unconditional love from head to heart and hands, increasing our awareness of his love who heals us, anchoring our self-esteem in Christ, rather than self)
- Breaking free from illusions (such as acknowledging our brokenness, recognizing idols in our lives, acknowledging how we attach ourselves to accomplishments, things, or people’s approval, changing generational family patterns)
The story of Daniel is an instructive one for us as adults, and for the youth whom we nurture in faith. Daniel was encouraged by those around him to assimilate into the dominant, God-denying culture of Babylon and had no support system to help him resist. Scazzero points out that Daniel knew he needed a plan to orient his life around loving God and follow that plan each day so that he could worship and draw close to God. Are we doing the same for ourselves and helping kids to learn this way of life also? It is clear that we cannot give what we do not live. Is it well with your soul?