Friday, November 12, 2021

Restless Hearts: A Different Method of Evaluation

 At the end of my Spiritual Formation for the Practice of Ministry class the other night, my professor talked about the various spiritual practices we've been exploring, and how to evaluate them:  what do we want to try, what is working, what is not?  She said we should ask "Where is our desire for God in the practice?"

It's a great way of reminding us of the primary purpose of a spiritual practice:  it's not about self-improvement, self-enrichment, self-care, although those elements can come about because of our spiritual practice(s).  The primary purpose of a spiritual practice is to train us to meet God.

She talked about the quote by Augustine (pronouns modified from Augustine's use of first person to collective third person):  "Our hearts are restless until they rest in God."  She said we will know when a practice is right for us because our hearts will rest.

Her way of framing the issue was so unique that I wanted to capture it.  Modern society trains most of us to think about our actions by what they bring to us.  I might evaluate spiritual journaling by asking if it's made me a better person, a more faithful Christian, and more efficient thinker, on and on the list could go.  Many of us might also think about the practice from a different angle:  does it bring us closer to God?  But how can we know?

We might also bring the voice of our inner critic to the evaluation of the practice.  We might assume that we're doing the practice wrong or that we're lazy or that we're stupid, on and on the list could go.  For me, thinking about whether or not my heart is resting in God is a way of silencing that inner critic so I can focus on the more essential question.

I suspect that this way of evaluation could be useful in other areas of life too.  Are our restless hearts calmed down?  Can our restless hearts find that rest?  And what is the larger purpose?

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