I am indebted to a blog I read, The Contemplative Monk for reminding me of the three spiritual dispositions important for transforming our spiritual lives. In a brief article published on the website, the spiritual practices of revival, renewal, and restoration were presented as key elements for a well rounded Christian spirituality. As someone providing pastoral counseling and spiritual direction I find these three practices (or as I like to call them dispositions) incredibly helpful when assisting people with spiritual growth. In fact, these three dispositions provide a means for understanding how a spiritual director or pastoral counselor might want to guide the interventions they employee. These dispositions provide a way for assessing someone’s primary means of engaging the spiritual life and are helpful for determining where one might be unbalanced and need correction. All three dispositions are essential for a healthy spiritual life and when experienced together in a balanced way foster fantastic growth and insight.
When we talk about spiritual revival the essence of this disposition is one of being awakened to the presence of God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. While many Christians experience revival at some point in their lives, it often gets tempered and takes a backseat to other experiences. Yet revival is something we always need. Revival is the evangelical experience that God is real, active, and present in our lives. If someone engages in spiritual direction or pastoral counseling feeling numb to the active presence of God it’s our role as counselors and directors to help the client rekindle his or her spiritual relationship with the divine. While there are a number of interventions experienced counselor and directors can employ what’s most important is recognizing the client’s spiritual sleepiness and reigniting a fire in his or her soul so they may be intentional about spiritual living.
Renewal is a disposition in which the Christian is experiencing the fruit of the Holy Spirit actively working in his or her life. Someone may deeply experience the presence of God but struggle in regards to how it’s lived out in one’s life context. This is when the counselor or director helps the individual understand how God can use the client’s gifts for kingdom building activity. Sometimes we’re captivated by the sense of God’s presence in our lives and we’re not sure what to do with it. This is when we need renewal, the process of being transformed into active agents of God not merely someone enamored with the divine presence. Good directors and counselors recognize it’s important to motivate their clients to become living icons of God not merely people who dwell in the divine glory. The spiritual disposition of renewal is meant to be active, much like the Holy Spirit is active in the world constantly renewing creation. It’s what balances the contemplative experience of revival and compels us to be transforming agents in the world.
The third disposition is restoration. Revival brings the presence of God to the front of our conscious experience, renewal makes us active agents of God through the use of our gifts and talents for kingdom living, but it’s restoration that provides the shalom of God. We’re broken people in a broken world and while knowing God’s presence powerfully and actively renewing the world through our own renewal are key elements of the spiritual life, restoration is what heals us and make us whole again. We need that oasis of restoration to take time to reflect on who we are, how we need God in our lives, and to heal from the wounds sin impresses upon us. Without restoration we’re nothing more than hyperactive God loving people on a track for burning out like a shooting star across the midnight sky.
Each time someone comes into my office, I take the time to assess if the individual shows a lack of or an excess of these three dispositions. Revival, the evangelical sense of God’s presence and the desire to live a devout Christian life, renewal, the empowered sense of the Holy Spirit compelling one to be a transforming agent in the world, and restoration, that reflective experience of the holistic peace must be present in a balanced way for spiritual thriving. They’re like three spiritual streams; streams of living water poured into our soul. When we drink abundantly of all three we have a deep living relationship with God. If we can help others do the same we help them develop balanced holistic spiritual lives. I encourage anyone in pastoral ministry to find ways to facilitate these three dispositions in a balanced way for those who come to them for counsel.
The Article from The Contemplative Monk about Revival, Renewal, and Restoration can be found here.