We are together.
Yesterday I shared one of the ways this new season of formation is different than the first time I ever encountered the formation process. Mainly, I said this time is like going back to a foundation already laid, whereas the first time was about building a foundation that didn’t yet exist.
Another way this season is different is that it connects in greater measure to the outer world.
There was a connection to the outer world the first time around, but in a very rudimentary way. I was learning who I was in the context of the world. This meant examining who I had become because of outside forces and then calling those assumptions into question. It meant growing into a greater sense of my “I-ness,” separate from other people, instead of living blindly by the impulses I’d adopted based on what I believed other people wanted me to be. Toward the end of that long season of growth, I began to care about my interactions with other people — being for them the unique “I” that I am, the “I” that is God in me.
But it was all, ultimately, quite focused on the development of my inner self. It was about building identity and selfhood and how the self that I am relates to God.
This time around, some of that “I” development is still there in certain places that need to grow into that true sense of identity. But there’s a greater sense of this process being connected to my relationships with other people — of my relationships and my ministry being the parts of my life most impacted by my “work” through this season.
For instance, one of the big themes of the “work” I’m doing in this season has to do with embracing the truth that “I get a vote.”
This has to do with voice. With dignity. With equality in relationship.
Now, I had a huge learning curve in my first process of intentional formation around this idea of dignity and voice — of having a story that matters, of being a person that matters. But that time, it had more to do with owning that truth for myself and believing myself to be valuable. It had to do with coming to believe, in a visceral way, my value to God.
This time, it has to do with showing up in relationships more, with giving myself permission to have a “vote” on how things exist inside those relationships, with trusting other people to value my voice and my vote. My relationships are going through great growing pains right now because of this, and it’s really important that I let this happen. A lot of the “work” of this season for me has to do with this practice.
Also, a lot of the work of this season keeps criss-crossing with my posture toward my calling and vocation, especially as it is exercised here. I shared some of this on Friday with the post about Henri Nouwen being my teacher, reminding me that my role here is to point you to God, not me.
For instance, when I’m feeling the pressure to be perfect, I get to relearn grace so that it’s about what other people receive from God, not me, in this place. I don’t have to be perfect because God is perfect. He’s their source. He’s their hope. He’s their joy.
When I learned grace the first time, it was just so I could learn it. Just for me. A gift for my soul that freed me from the tyranny of perfectionism.
I’m learning grace now so that, in the context of my ministry, I can have a true picture of my part and God’s part.
I don’t know that everyone going through the formation process the first time versus the additional times we circle the spiral throughout our lives would say their experience is the same. But this is my experience, for now. This is how right now is different than before.