Engage: The Transformation Pattern

Next week, we begin our common reading of Richard Rohr’s book, ‘What Do We Do With Evil?” Next week’s post (and each Monday thereafter) will serve as a guide for our group.

But before we get into the details given to us in the book, we need to see that it is a resource set against the background of what Rohr calls “the pattern for spiritual transformation.” [1] It unfolds through three phases,

ORDER…in this phase we establish an identity, world view, belief system, group affiliations etc. that give us a sense of place and security. This first phase is essential, but given the propensity of egotism and ethnocentrism to create comfort zones and sacred cows, we can turn anything into an idol, which then moves us to defend it and resist change. But if we are to move with the fresh wind of the Spirit filling our sails, we must understand that “the old” must pass away in order for “the new” to come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

DISORDER…in this phase we experience “system failure” of some kind. Disorder is liminal space, an in-between time that ignites a necessary emptying which then leads to an infilling. We feel disoriented, unsure, and insecure as our status quos and sacred cows fall by the wayside. We do not know where we will go, but we know we cannot go back. God is calling us to leave one thing and go to another (Genesis 12:1).

REORDER…little-by-little we enter a new phase, seeing and hearing differently. A reorientation ignites new associations and actions. We are new creations who “engage ourselves unto the Lord” in fresh ways. In the context of this “Engage” series, the reordering includes a nonviolent resistance to evil, overcoming it with good. We experience life together with others who have offered themselves to God in this regard.

These phases can occur in relation to the stages of human development, but they are not just three phases we go through between birth and death. They are repeated processes which continue the “tearing down and building up” (dying/rising) experience in maturation. They are confirmations of impermanence, and reminders that to grow is to change. We are always “in the making” (as E. Stanley Jones described it), moving from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Reading Richard Rohr’s book, beginning next Monday, will assist us in maturing us with respect to how we respond to evil. I am looking forward to this common-reading experience with you.

[1] He introduced the pattern in his book, ‘The Universal Christ’ (pages 253-248). He has since written a book that further develops the concept, ‘The Wisdom Pattern.’

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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