Last Thursday, Todd Hunter spoke at the Spiritual Formation Alliance Pastor’s Forum in Orange county. I found it helpful in so many very personal ways. In gratitude I wanted to share my notes in three installments here. This is part two.
As always, when I share notes from a presentation, my standard disclaimer is that these are insights that I gained from listening to Todd. They are sometimes his exact words or quotations. They are sometimes my own words or reflections on what he shared. So, don’t assume that every word here is straight from him. And these are lightly edited, so bear with possible typos or grammatical goofs. I’ll take responsibility for any way in which I might have misunderstood him. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey of following Jesus for the sake of others.
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(Read Part 1)
Around ’89 or ’90, I realized that I couldn’t respond to Romans 12. I couldn’t actually do what Paul was inviting me into. This is what our mentors mean when they talk about training off the spot. I have to become a different kind of person through the transformation of our souls.
No one in my movement knew anything about spiritual formation. We resisted it because of an misguided fear that we would be focused on works rather than grace.
“You spiritual directors are way more important than you may know.”
When you shut your heart down, there is no ‘you’–you are not present to the rhythms or routines of your life. The Christain life isn’t about being able to pass a ‘theological pop quiz’, but about the vision Paul articulated in Rom 1-11 actually being lived out.
We wish our lives away. “Things will be different when…” We think there is another life somewhere in the future. There isn’t. There is only you and there is only now. There is no “you” apart from your life as you present experience it.
My default position was to always put myself down. I assumed everyone else was smarter or more anointed than me.
In athletics, the position of your body really matters. Golf. Defense in basketball. Our inner stance is either able or unable to deal with life as it comes to us. We must change our inner stance so we’re prepared. This is how we avoid spiritual formation as legalism or self-flagellation. To do this graciously.
Peter believed he was being real when he proclaimed that he wouldn’t deny Jesus. Jesus knew Peter couldn’t do what he intended. Jesus knew Peter’s heart and what he was able or unable to do. Jesus was committed to Peter even in his mistaken affirmation. Jesus even stayed committed to Judas until he killed himself.
In spiritual formation, we aren’t trying for works-orientation, elitism or legalism. We are aiming for childlike and organic life in Jesus. Childlikeness isn’t afraid to try what seems impossible. It isn’t a grunting burdensome effort, but a graced effort.
Some who pursue spiritual formation become judgmental and unkind. This is wrong. It should be joyous, grace, organic, rooted in the Spirit.
How do we live Romans 12:1-2? I suggest the “Golden triangle of presence.”
- Top: God
- One bottom corner: People and events in my life
- Other bottom corner: Me
This has been my paradigm for 22 years. I try to live my life present to God, present to people/events in my life and present to myself.
I often pray, “Jesus, I want to be present to this group today. I’ve done this hundreds of times. What do you want to do today?”
How to be present? I’m tempted not to be present because it might hurt, be scary or call me to do something that’s hard.
When possible, I will say aloud, “May the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart, and the thoughts of my mind be acceptable in your sight.” I pray for calls I’m getting ready to make. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” I have to do this or I drift. Instead of beautiful, life becomes gray.
I have two main pillars in my life: morning prayer and evening prayer. I don’t do morning prayer if I have to rise at 4:00am to leave for for a flight.
Evening prayer: Compline. I do this just before retiring. It’s easy to connect this with bedtime. I’m never legalistic.
These are the two pillars that hold up the golden triangle of presence for me. This enables me to do this as a social person. We are always in contact with others. How are they experiencing us? “Love is to will the good of the object before us” (Willard).
I’m kind of a Jesus freak (not in the 60s sense), but in that I have astounding respect for Jesus. I think he’s brilliant.
Jesus was a great leader. Every great leader has to answer certain questions.
- Who am I?
- Where am I going?
- How will we get there?
- How can others become meaningfully involved.”
Jesus was clear on these questions.
Then, in the last stroke, Jesus answers the final question, “What will it be like if you come along with me?”
Matthew 11:25-30 (MSG) – 25-26Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”27Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.28-30″Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus knew that most of the people in the crowd listening to him weren’t listening to hear him, but listening to filter and manage him according to their presently held viewpoint. They listened with zealot, Herodian or Pharisee ears, not listening ears. “Those who have ears to hear” they were not.
We do this today. We filter Jesus to fit our framework or orientation. We don’t let Jesus transform our essential position of anger or power-hunger or greed, but we hear him and filter Him as a way of upholding our current way of life.
There are millons of women who wouldn’t know how to live without manipulation and millions of men who don’t know how to function without anger. As a kid, I managed my life through lying.
Jesus sees the human exhaustion with this trying to manage our lives. He invited us to come to Him to recover our lives.
Jesus asks us, “Are you tired of doing life your own way? Would you let me show you how?”
(Read Part 3)
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