One way of looking at the spiritual journey is to view it as a journey of six stages. The first three are primarily external; the last three primarily internal--though of course, there are deep interior moves in the first three more external stages, and there are serious engagements with the outer world in the last three more internal stages.

This pattern appears consistence throughout the history of Christian spirituality. But remember, any such scheme is an oversimplification, even while it describes a time-tested path of spiritual growth. God is always free do blow our little maps apart in order to bring us to the fullness offered us in Christ.

God will not be boxed up or caged, nor the path to God turned into a formula.

So while it's not inappropriate to explore the path of spiritual growth, we must avoid turning that path into a journey we can engineer on our own, and we must take care not to turn these stages into tools to judge others or ourselves. What I say about these stages is meant only to help you recognize common sign posts along the way, while leaving the journey open to whatever God wishes to do in your life and in the lives of those around you.

To be continued . . .