“The best witness we have is our transformed lives.”
Today I come to the end of my pilgrimage through Rich Villodas’s book The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root us in the Way of Jesus. The book was both inspiring and incredibly challenging, and Rich’s final words still ring uncomfortably through me:
The questions show us how easy it is to claim to be a Christian, but still live a life that is ‘incongruent with life in the kingdom’. God does not want to transform only parts of our lives; he wants every part of our life to reflect his light, freedom and love.
In the last section of the book, Rich encourages us to take the call for transformation seriously and to write up a ‘Rule of Life’ for ourselves. He suggests going through the practices outlined in the book to consider what we need to give attention to.
As I began my pilgrimage with The Deeply Formed Life, I wrote:
“Just a few pages into reading the book, I already realised that this book was going to be uncomfortable and unsettling. This was a book to mess with the happy status quo of my life. It was a wake-up call, and I had a choice. Was I going to skim over the chapters so that I could tick the box and say I’d read it (the words ‘shallowly formed’ reverberated convictingly through my mind). Or was I going to slow down, wrestle with the words and put into place the values and disciplines Rich outlined in his book. In short, was I going to pull the pillow over my head or was I going to wake-up?”
There’s a (big) part of me that just wants to close the book and think ‘that was interesting’ and carry on with my life. There’s a (persuasive) part of me that thinks ‘I’m sure I’ve absorbed what I needed to’ and then move on to something lighter and breezier. Change—deep soul change—is not easy. I suspect we have an inherent resistance to it. And so, as an act of rebellion to the part of me that would have me go back to my shallow sleep, I am going to write my Rule of Life and share it with you all. The sleepy part of me is now screaming ‘it’s too personal—don’t do it!’. But I want to write it down and stick it on the wall where it confronts me each day. I want to come face-to-face with one of you asking me ‘how are you doing?’ and have to give an honest answer. I want to declare right here and now that I wish to live a deeply formed life and that I will do whatever God shows me is necessary to be changed by him.
Out of all the practices in the book (and there were quite a few), these were the ones that felt like invitations to me:
My Rule of Life
I will spend some time in silent prayer and slow Scripture reading each day.
I will practice the habit of listening deeply to the stories of others (particularly those whose stories are very different from my own) and renounce whiteness (pay careful attention to the racial lens with which I view the world).
I will take time (not be overly busy) and invite God into my inner world. I will be ‘compassionately curious’ with myself whenever my anxiety surfaces.
I will become aware of messages (or inner feelings) of shame and bring them to God, to be replaced by his truth.
I will pray to become aware of how God is at work in those around me, and gently draw alongside them in that work with my presence and love. I will practice hospitality.
Thank you for taking the time to share this pilgrimage with me. It’s been a joy to unpack this remarkable book in the best way I know how—through writing. Now the difficult part begins…actually putting it into practice.
Ultreia et Suseia. Further and Higher.
This is the final part of my Pilgrimage Blog series. Read The Storytelling Pilgrim (Part 1), A Call to go Deeper (Part 2), Building a Contemplative Rhythm (Part 3), Racial Reconciliation (Part 4), Examining my Inner Life (Part 5), Towards Sexual Wholeness (Part 6) and Towards being Jesus for Another (Part 7).