What do we mean by the phrase “spiritual formation,” and what does it have to do with home? The Scriptures tell us that men and women were created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). In other words, we were made as icons to reflect our Creator, just like children resemble their parents.
Unfortunately, our original parents fell into a disease called sin which changed everything. You might say we became willing accomplices in our own spiritual de-formation. Every one of us is born as something less than we were intended to be, damaged versions of our original design. That’s why God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, providing the means for and initiating the process of restoring us to our original purpose.
Put simply, spiritual formation is the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ. Our spirits, and therefore our entire beings, need to be “re-formed.” Think of a sculptor keeping his eye on a human model as he gradually transforms a chunk of marble into a statue. The same process takes place in our lives. We are called to keep our eye on the model, Jesus Christ, and to submit to the Divine Artist as He gradually forms us into the masterpieces we were created to become.
How does this “re-forming”occur? It can happen when we spend time alone with God through solitude, prayer, fasting, and other contemplative habits. It also takes place during corporate worship or when we imitate Christ by caring for the poor and loving our neighbors. Most of us associate these kinds of practices with spiritual formation, and God does mold us through such routines. But they are not the primary context of our spiritual formation.
I can learn about Jesus when I read the Bible and feel close to Jesus when I pray. But I become like Jesus (spiritually formed) when I give my life to a spouse, a child, a grandchild, and others whom God places in my home. These are the specific people for whom I am called to turn the Word into flesh amid the day-in and day-out reality of life.
It is much easier to sit in church listening to a sermon than to bite my tongue during an argument with my wife. The first nourishes my spirit. The second humbles my pride. I love listening to worship music and reading inspirational books. I hate apologizing to my children after losing my temper. The first reminds me who God is. The second reminds me who I am, a sinner in need of repentance.
Spiritual formation occurs most effectively in those moments when I obediently submit to the Sculptor’s chisel and follow the apostle Paul’s admonishment to become like the One who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. . . . [H]e humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7–8).
In short, my marriage and family are the first and primary contexts within which I am called to be like Jesus in the lives of others.
We unpack more about spiritual formation at home in Chapter 2 of ‘It Starts At Home’.
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