Listenings: Early Movements

Every important dimension of our life begins with an unstrained simplicity—an easiness, if you will.  Take mathematics.  No one chastises us on our first day at school for not knowing how to do Algebra.  In fact, no one even criticizes us for not knowing how to add or subtract.

I still remember Mrs. Stubblefield drawing the numbers on the blackboard and then asking us to do the same in our tablets.  Over and over again, we printed the numbers.  Only later did we learn that they could be combined (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) to reveal “totals” that were different from their stand-alone value.

And so it is with spiritual formation.  We are dealing with God—the One Who is without beginning or end.  How can we imagine to have even a miniscule grasp “the first day”—or (truth be told) any other day after that, for that matter!  In spiritual formation, God takes our lives seriously and moves us “little by little.”

Jesus reinforced this by making “becoming as a little child” something to be valued and sought—something never to be left behind for an alleged sophistication or spiritual adulthood.  Some of his biggest problems came in trying to get people to let go of their prideful presuppositions and return to a childlike (not childish) simplicity.  Some of his biggest blessings were (and still are) with people who were willing to do this.

We will not hurry through the early movements, precisely because God wants us to carry them with us over the course of the entire journey.  If we can maintain the spirit of a child, there’s no limit to what God can do in, with, and through us.  If we lay it down for a presumed “grown-up spirituality,” there’s no limit to the damage we can and will do.



About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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