I often use my blog as a place to keep track of things I am learning from books or articles I am reading. Right now I am reading a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. It is the basis for a new sermon series at our church that started yesterday. He is getting at the heart of some things often neglected in the development of a follower of Jesus. Of course, by emphasising healthy spiritual development the author is necessarily encouraging us to look at ourselves; but one gets the sense that he wants to help us know ourselves so that we may know God (he is explicit about this); so that we may know others (less explicit, but still there); and so that we may serve others (largely an implicit message of the book). So, after I read this book I should probably pick up some Ron Sider or Shane Claiborne to remind me of other essential elements of my spiritual development. For now, I will learn what I can from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
Scazzero reminds us of three things that early Christians and the Desert Fathers focussed upon when he says,
Emotional health and contemplative spirituality offer three primary gifts. Each enables us to participate in the enormous transformative power of Jesus Christ today. They are:
* the gift of slowing down
* the gift of anchoring in God’s love; and
* the gift of breaking free from illusions.1
This first point is particularly appropriate for the world in which we find ourselves. I suspect that many of us would do well to slow down the pace of life. Scazzero reflects upon his own life and offers this testimony.
The pace of my life slowed down considerably eleven years ago when I began my journey into emotional health. It takes time – lots of it – to feel, to grieve, to listen, to reflect, to be mindful of what is going on around us and in us, to live and not simply exist, and to love well. . . . This opened up for me a new world of surrendering and trusting God in the midst of obstacles and challenges. In a culture as frenetic and inattentive as ours, a “slowed down” Christian who is a contemplative presence to God and others is an extraordinary gift.2
Slowing down can be a powerful tool. I have found it productive in my spiritual life as long as I slow down for the right reasons. I dare not slow down and fill my life with more entertainment or more luxury for myself. This does not serve God’s purposes in my life. Instead, slowing down must mean that I create space for feeling, grieving, listening, reflecting, meditating, praying, and waiting for God. This is what Scazzero is getting at. I will read on and likely come back to this blog with a few more insights as I allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life.
1 Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006; p. 47.
2 Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006; p. 51, 53.