"How can I grow spiritually?" "Can I know where I am on the spiritual path?" "Is there a way for me to be more intentional about my spiritual life?" These are the kinds of questions people often ask me when we sit down together. And if they don't ask them exactly, these are the questions that hide within the other questions and struggles they bring into the counseling conversation.
The short answer is, yes, you can grow spiritually. Yes, you can have some understanding of where you may be on the path. And yes, there is a way for you to be more intentional about your spiritual life. What's more, doing so is rewarding. We are spiritual beings, made by God, breathed into life by God, and we were made to experience the joy, peace and meaning of union with Jesus Christ in the Spirit.
Church leaders often talk about growing the church, but when they do they usually look at age stages or social categories and how each stage and category requires certain programs. They program for young people, families, singles, middle-aged and older adults. But while age stages and social categories are helpful for developing certain kinds of programs, they are not the most helpful ways to think about spiritual growth for people. A person can be young but quite spiritually advanced. An older person can be newly awakened to the life of the Spirit and relatively immature spiritually. If we think of spiritual growth in only age-stages or social categories we can get stuck, living a more superficial spiritual lives than we were intended to live.
Over the next few weeks, my posts will explore the time-tested stages of spiritual growth and how understanding them will help you grow into "maturity, the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4.13).
These stages are informed by spiritual teachers as diverse as St. John Climacus and the Fathers of the ancient church, the Cloud of Unknowing in the Middle Ages, St. Teresa of Avila in the Renaissance, more recently the observations of Ken Wilber, a contemporary philosopher. The six stage framework is drawn from contemporary writers Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich (who was my New Testament professor years ago).