The other day, I wrote about how the core of Jesus’ conflict with the religious establishment of his day, and the fault lines within religion today, is a fundamentally different understanding of what faith is all about: Is it about gate-keeping and behaviour control — creating community through conformity — or is it about providing people with safe pasture — creating community through nurturing growth? To put it in the language developed in the series on Empire and Spirit, we could equally ask, Is faith about rule-following and submission, or is it about showing up for ourselves, each other and God?
The paths represented by the second half of these questions, which I believe express the teaching of Jesus, are at the heart of an integral approach to spirituality, and therefore also at the heart of the project of this blog. Such an approach, as I’ve defined it here, has four interrelated characteristics: it is growth-oriented, holistic, inclusive, and integrating. Putting the list in sentence form, we might say that an integral spirituality seeks the growth of the whole person and whole community in a way that includes and integrates as much as possible in a healthy way.
But what does this actually look like?
Two of my most trusted spiritual guides, Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon Au, in their fantastic book The Discerning Hearth, have offered an eightfold framework of what they call “movements of growth,” but which we could also call “movements of faith.” These offer one glimpse of what the kind of growth we’re talking about looks like. They are:
- The movement away from facades;
- The movement away from ‘shoulds’;
- The movement away from conformity for the sake of acceptance;
- The movement away from people-pleasing;
- The movement toward openness to experience;
- The movement toward trust in oneself;
- The movement toward trust in God’s faithfulness; and
- The movement toward accountability.
Really, these movements are all simply different aspects of the same phenomenon: being a whole human person. But each of these aspects offers a slightly different perspective, and so I would like to spend the next few posts unpacking each of these movements to better understand how they connect to spiritual maturity, human development, and the life of faith.
But for today, before we get going on this project, I’d like you to ponder the list as a whole:
- What do you think of the list as a whole? How does it connect to spiritual growth? And, because it takes a specific perspective on growth, what important parts of the life of faith might it not include?
- Which of these movements seems easiest to you? Which feels the hardest?
- Do any of these movements surprise you or make you uncomfortable? If so, why?