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Friday, September 3, 2010

What I'm Reading Today: 1 Peter 3-5

Over the years, I've noticed that I tend to live my spiritual life in three stages. I wish I could say there was a logical sort of progression that propels me from one stage to another, but I can't. I've noticed that I tend to jump from one stage to the next – often in seemingly random order.

"So what are these three stages?" you might be wondering. Well let's see if I can spell them out for you.

When I lead my life from stage one, I am focused exclusively on those things that I want out of life. This means that I tend to see the entire world through the lens of personal preference; that's about all I consider. I should note that I don't believe the first stage is inherently a bad place to come from. After all, there are times when an individual needs to pursue her or his wants or needs as a means of self-care. If a person spends too much of your time in the first stage, however, it greatly stunts an individual's spiritual growth.

The second stage of my spiritual life takes me to a place where I am primarily tuned into the will of the community. When I'm in this second stage, I find myself spending a lot of time taking the "temperature" of the group in order to help build consensus within the group. I find that I have to quiet my own voice in order to ensure it blends with other voices in the community and doesn't drown them out. In my leadership position, I also spend a good deal of time trying to quiet other domineering voices in order to help the group achieve a sense of harmony.

Occasionally, I have moments of absolute clarity/bliss when I reach the third stage in my spiritual development. This stage is where I find myself successfully discerning the leading of the Spirit and work to align my own life in this direction as well. The third stage of this developmental process is the hardest because I not only have to bring my own voice into harmony with others, but I also have to work to balance the preferences of the community with what I believe is the leading of the Spirit. This is a tremendously difficult thing to do since it requires holding many egos and agendas in check.

Some of the words in today's reading from 1 Peter reminded me of these stages. Those words also helped clarify what stage I should seek to spend the bulk of my time. As Peter talks about the issue of suffering, for instance, he wrote: "Think of your sufferings as a weaning from the old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way."

This is akin to leading your life from a stage one.

"Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want."

As you negotiate your way through your day today, I would ask you to consider in which stage you spend the majority of your time. Do you spend the bulk of your time in stage one – pursuing/demanding your own way; do you spend the majority of your time in stage two – playing peace-keeper and working to build consensus in the community; or do you spend a good deal of your time in stage three –aligning your life with the movement of the Spirit?

Til next time …

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