In my last post, I started to write about “A Spirit Led Life”.
I would like to assert today that The Spirit Led Life involves three decisive paths of action- a life that journeys deeply inward, looks worshipfully upward, and lives joyfully outward…….
Let’s look at the first of these three paths……the journey inward.
No matter where we look in the Bible- the answer to the question “What must I do to be saved?” is almost always answered with two words: Repent and Believe. Repentance is the journey deeply inward. We can not have a meaningful and fruitful relationship with God through the Holy Spirit if we are not in a state of daily repentance.
This does not mean that God wants us to walk around all the time feeling terrible about ourselves. A continuous state of repentance is one where we are self aware. We have taken the time to seriously get to know ourselves- our strengths, our weaknesses- the areas in our spiritual life which need to be improved. This is not a singular step that we take before we make a decision for Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong practice.
There are many tools which can be helpful to get us started on a journey inward. Some of these tools can be found within the Church- and some without. The Anglican tradition, for example, has a service in the Book of Common Prayer called the Reconciliation of a Penitent. Yes- I know- many of us may have had terrible experiences with confession in the past but the service as it is outlined in the Book of Common Prayer is very different from what you may remember from your childhood.
You make an appointment with your Pastor and he or she will see you face to face. A few weeks prior to the appointment, he may give you a document that is about two pages long. This document asks questions to prepare you for the appointment. You may want to write the answers to the questions down in your journal. A journal is something that is very helpful in living a life of repentance. You write down your deepest thoughts, desires and fears. You can write down prayer requests, confessions, prayers, memories and observations. Everything that you write is private between you and God. Ask yourself- Where am I doing well? Where do I struggle? What do I need to let go of? Whom do I need to forgive? Ask the Holy Spirit to bring things to mind that need to be confessed. Spend a few weeks in prayer preparing for this time.
After this time of preparation, you go to see your Pastor and she goes through the service with you. You confess your sins but she does not just give you a bunch of Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers and send you on your way. She talks with you about your areas of weakness. She offers you wise counsel. Then she offers you forgiveness and pardon in the name of Jesus. It is a powerful and life changing experience.
A way to journey inward which can be found outside of the Church is the way of the Twelve Steps. The Twelve Steps have been very helpful in my own spiritual journey and recovery from much dysfunction in my family of origin. The Steps help me to face my past and understand how my past has shaped me. They help me to recognize the things I cannot change and make peace with them. They help me to see the things that I am capable of changing and give me the willingness to ask the Holy Spirit to show me the ways to change the things that I can. The experience of working through the Steps with a kind and caring sponsor has also been life changing for me. There are many “isms” that the steps can help us to be free of. There are many types of recovery groups available and they are all free- which is wonderful for those who may have trouble affording counseling.
In a previous post, entitled “The Power of Mentoring”, I discussed working with a Pastoral Mentor and a Spiritual Director. Both of these have also been extremely helpful on my journey inward. One thing that is necessary is the ability to ask for help. Look at those in your life who have the peace, faith and inner strength that you would like to have and ask them to help you. This takes courage and humility but the rewards will be worth it.
There are many ways by which we can begin to live a life of repentance. Ask the Holy Spirit to help. Maybe you will be led to start keeping a journal, or go on a weekend retreat. Maybe you will feel moved to share something with people in your small group. You might seek out and investigate a Twelve Step recovery group. Maybe you will be led to see a trusted friend after church for a session of healing prayer. You might be invited to attend a conference on healing……There are a number of paths that we can take to begin the journey inward but we must do it if we are going to live a Spirit Led Life.