What is in your Toolbox?
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
A project to build, a piece of furniture to refinish, a broken cabinet to fix...what tools do I need to accomplish the task? The tasks range from simple to complex... a hammer and nail are required to hang a picture... but much more is needed to renovate a garage. When I consider my life and God's activity to heal and transform my heart, I look for tools, the spiritual practices, that enable me to align with God and remain open-hearted to His Spirit.
So what tools are in my toolbox? What might be needed? Perhaps I pick up an old favorite or I add a new tool to my collection. Tools need to be suited to the task. Is there something broken or something to build? How is the Spirit of God pressing upon my heart?
God knows me. God knows my strengths, gifts, and calling... after all God is my designer, Creator. God knows my brokenness, my wounds, and my sin patterns... better than I do. Am I aware of the strong, tender hand of God pressing and forming my heart? Am I willing for God to reveal my heart to me?
Spiritual practices can be body, mind, or heart oriented depending on what is needed. Here is an example: God has given me two tools this winter that I am integrating into my routines. The first practice you might not consider a spiritual tool, but for me it is. I joined the local gym and started running, very slowly mind you. My unique bent tends toward an inward focus, I struggle with low energy, and I am a peacemaker (Enneagram 9). The physical practice of running enables me to be more disciplined in choosing action.
Interestingly exercise, like many things, can easily turn into an idol rather then a spiritual practice. A spiritual practice needs to deepen our reliance on God rather than self or another idol. Since some of my sin patterns can be passive, this physical discipline deepens my active reliance on God. Exercise has always been, and probably will always be, a spiritual commitment for me. As I intentionally steward my body through movement God encourages me to action and perseverance in other ways especially when I am overwhelmed or weary.
The second practice I have begun is more focused on the mind and heart. I have been rehearsing 1 Corinthians 13 (where Paul defines love)as a Scripture meditation practice. As I engage the challenging season of parenting teens I am asking God to shape my perspective of my girls and enable me to love them well. This season of growing independence is tough to navigate on so many levels. I can easily revert to my default learned patterns of relating that are not always Spirit-led. Remember I like to keep the peace, but God's word is reminding me that love is way more than "nice." As a parent love looks different at 13 and 16 years old than it did at 3 and 6 years old.
Love is strong, and grace-filled. Love does not rejoice in evil, so it has healthy boundaries. Love trusts. Love is forgiving. Love hopes and endures. Over and over I focus on how God describes love, and I soak in the truth. Now I have begun to experience the Spirit bringing a particular phrase of that passage to mind in a specific moment. I turn my attention to God's word through meditation (a certain type of tool) and then I attend to how the Spirit is empowering and teaching me to use that tool.
In a couple weeks I will go on a personal retreat for a weekend. This is an anchor practice for me. Retreat is one of the places I intentionally empty out my tool box before Abba God, and I ask what needs tweaking. Together we review my life, and I ask for guidance in the coming months.
What spiritual practice might God be inviting you to engage this winter. Is there a new tool for your box?
Resources for considering a rule of life or spiritual practices: Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen A. Macchia, The Common Rule by Justin Earley