About a month and a half ago, I begin a seven month-long spiritual formation process called Theodyssey. A play-on-words between an epic “odyssey”, or journey, and “theodicy”, meaning the defense of God’s attributes, this program was designed to help people be transformed for the sake of others. The process involves weekly homework, daily reflection and journaling and time spent with a group of others, sharing thoughts and struggles and triumphs. Theodyssey is meant to challenge, inspire, encourage, refine and renew.
Basically, it gets up in your business.
I’ve been out of grad school for almost six months, and I was excited for a new journey. I have spent the past five years learning about myself, and my own story, from a clinical, therapeutic perspective, and now I’m looking at myself from a new perspective. I thought, “Sure, I’ve been through seminary. This will be an exciting, new challenge.”
Little did I know what was in store.
Since this blog has been a place for me to share about all that is going on in my life, I want to include my Theodyssey journey in that process. There are ten main sections to this process, so I’ll post a new blog about the most influential, challenging or impacting part of each section. I hope this encourages you as well. . .
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” – St. Augustine
We all desire something in this life. Whether that is a specific job, a satisfying relationship, a promotion, or acceptance and validation, our hearts and souls long for something that we don’t have. In my mind, I had always believed that you have to work hard to get what you want. If you put in enough time, effort, research and training, you can achieve those goals and life is good.
Enter the comparison of the factory and the farmer.
In the first section of Theodyssey, the author describes two different approaches to growth, transformation and progress. The first is that of a factory- if you plan well and work hard, at the end of the day you will have a finished product. In sum, “success or failure depends upon us.”
Contrast this with the farmer approach- the farmer prepares the soil, removes any hindrances that could interfere with his crops, and waits. Oftentimes, all that he has to show for his work at the end of the day is a field that looks very much like it did the day before. Simply put, “All that a farmer can do is cultivate an environment where life can grow.”
This challenges everything I’ve believed about spiritual growth, or any other growth for that matter.
As I was working on this section of the homework, I realized that I get uncomfortable when I can’t control the results of my work. I just plain don’t like it. Farming seemed so passive, whereas factory work seemed energizing. But then I read this: “Being fruitful in the spiritual life involves the hard work of cultivating an interior environment where the mystery of Jesus can grow.”
Like I said, it gets up in your business.
Suddenly, I realized that I was missing the most important part of growth: letting God take control. There is such freedom in realizing that all I have to do is my part; all I have to do is create a space where desires can be planted and grown. I am not in charge of the results, only the environment for the harvest. Wow.
So I’ll challenge you with the same – where is your mindset in regards to growth and “success?” Do you place too much responsibility on yourself to produce results, and could you find more freedom in changing your perspective? Could you do more farming and less factory work? My prayer is that God would give us all grace and strength to continue cultivating…