How Do the Two Levels of Formation Interact?

Stained glass down a hallway.

Yesterday we explored the concept that formation happens on two levels — one level concerned with self-protection and one level concerned with discovering and recovering the truth of ourselves in God’s eyes. 

In the comments section, Katy asked a great question: 

How do you think those two types of formation interact with and inform each other? 

I think there are probably many layers to the answer. I suspect in our times of reflection together in this space, we will continue to revisit these two levels of formation to consider concrete ways that either level is or has been at work in our lives and to discover ways in which the two interact. 

But today, as I considered this question, I did land on one way that I believe these two levels speak to one another and teach us something about who we are and the quest each of us are taking toward wholeness and ultimate security in God. That way is this: 

The first level of formation that is concerned with protecting and promoting the self — when examined — teaches us much about the identity and security we ultimately will find in God. 

The thing about the first level of formation is that it is wholly devoted to acts of self-preservation. All that we believe and choose and seek on that level has to do with our ongoing longing and hope for security, acceptance, and love. On that level, our greatest fears are being alone and lacking significance. Everything we choose to believe about the world and how we then interact with it is geared toward self-preservation and a hope that we truly matter. 

The recovery work on the second level of formation — the level where we continually discover who we are to God and begin to abide in relationship with God — eventually teaches us that everything we sought so valiantly to attain and keep on that first level of formation already exists in our relationship with God. 

With God, we eventually discover the reality of full acceptance and love that never ends and can never be taken from us or lost. With God, we discover the reality of always being wanted and sought out. We’re never left alone, and are our value is immense and esteemed and unchanging. Our existence carries intention and meaning to God.

These are, paradoxically, hard truths to grasp.

Although in God we ultimately find all that we sought with all our might on the first level of formation, such reality is not readily apparent. It takes time to discover. We must get to know God and get to know ourselves. Eventually, those two entities — God and ourselves — must begin to interact and form relationship in order for us to eventually receive and settle into these gifts of security, acceptance, and love God has to give us.

And again, discovering and settling into the truth of ourselves in God is a process that lasts our lifetime. 

What is your response to this idea? Where are you in your process of understanding yourself on either level of formation?