Pieces of Formation: An Introduction

Life was here.

I mentioned in a previous post that when I couldn’t sleep one night, I listened to the first few chapters of an audio version of Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward. I haven’t finished listening to the whole book yet, but an idea he presents early on has been sticking with me. And I’ve found that it makes for a great series topic for us to explore together here.

The idea Rohr presents centers on the concept of a container — namely, the container each one of us forms to make sense of life, our identity, and our interaction with the world. Rohr says the first half of life centers on building the container, while the second half of life concerns discovering what the container is meant to hold.

Basically, this has to do with formation. 

Or at least, that’s what it got me thinking about. 

The work of formation happens in two major phases.

First, it happens unconsciously. We take in data and experiences from the world, and based on that information, we become certain people over the course of our lives, beginning at our youngest age. We make decisions and agreements with ourselves — again, mostly unconciously, though sometimes consciously — about who we will be and how we will interact with the world and what we ultimately believe about it, ourselves, and other people and their relation to us. 

The second phase of formation is intentional. It’s a process of deconstruction and then reconstruction — of looking at the first phase and evaluating it, analyzing it, learning from it, and making decisions for how we want to move forward. 

Not everyone gets to this second intentional phase of formation.

They may be unaware the opportunity is available for them to live more intentional, examined lives. They may be disinterested in that opportunity. They may be flat-out scared. 

But those who choose to step into the second phase find it immensely rewarding. It isn’t easy, of course. Rewarding doesn’t necessarily mean fun. It’s hard work. It’s a long road. It can, indeed, be scary at times. Sometimes it feels, just like the title of Rohr’s book suggests, that we are falling upward with no sense of the ground’s true place anymore. We may discover that the ground is what we once thought the ceiling.

And inside this second major phase of formation, there are many smaller stages by which to move through it.

Despite the difficulty and courage such a journey requires, most who strike out on its path find it to be a rich and rewarding journey — and couldn’t imagine living any other way. Through this process, our lives become our own. We connect with our concept of God and our concept of self and how we fit into the mix. We discover what has been influencing us without our knowledge, and then can consciously pick up or put down those pieces once we’ve examined them.

As Rohr says, we discover who we are and are meant to be, and we live forward with that knowledge. Our lives become intentional.

And so, I’d like to take you through some of that second-phase journey here.

Each day of this series, we’ll look at the different pieces of our formation, a bit like we’re picking up rocks and turning them over in our hands, seeing the colors and shapes and textures. What have been our experiences of life? How have they formed who we’ve become? What do we make of that formation? What questions do we have?

Will you join us for this interior exploration? I hope you will.