A balanced spiritual life
An interesting phenomenon of Church History is the way that different movements have arisen emphasising different aspects of spirituality. Each has been a corrective to what the movements’ leaders have seen as a deficiency in the church of their own time. There have been movements which have focussed almost exclusively on ‘the word’ because, they argue, Jesus was very much word-centred. Others have said that we have forgotten that Jesus was a charismatic, and so they have made the gifts of the Holy Spirit the primary focus of their movement. Yet others have argued that Jesus came primarily to release captives, so it’s issues of social justice that must be paramount; still others have majored on the sacraments because Jesus was clearly a sacramentalist. Each movement or tradition has had a very important and timely point to make, and in so doing has potentially made a life giving contribution and corrective to the wider church. Richard Foster, in his book Streams of Living Water, makes the observation that today many people are coming to appreciate this fact more; they have even begun to explore traditions different from their own. For example, today there is a growing appreciation within the evangelical churches for things thought more catholic such as contemplative prayer, whilst catholic churches have been discovering the gifts of the Spirit.
Richard Foster shows that all Church movements of the past can be helpfully grouped into six different streams – the evangelical, the incarnational, the social justice, the holiness, the charismatic and the contemplative streams. In which stream would Jesus most naturally belong? The answer is all of them. Jesus embodied all these streams in a balanced way, like the well balanced wheel in the diagram. For those who wish to become better disciples of Jesus there is a need to reflect on how well balanced their own wheel is. Having thought carefully about my own wheel I can see that it has serious punctures and needs inflating in some places before it would give anything but the bumpiest ride! I am working (as a member of a Renovaré group) to put some air into the weakest parts of my wheel. How is your wheel shaping up? Happy motoring!