Spiritually, many of us want to know and experience God more powerfully. We may hear a lot about “personal transformation”—buzz words in many circles today—but sometimes when we look at our own feeble attempts to improve ourselves or our circumstances, we wonder who truly changes and how transformation happens. We may also feel frustrated and disappointed that God doesn’t seem to be doing more to help, and, even more, we want to know if there is any hope for us.
Many of us want a better relationship with God and a more fulfilling life, but are we also willing to admit our limitations, struggles, disappointments, and longing? Spiritual growth is truly possible; God is already at work drawing you closer to him and transforming you, whether or not you can see or feel it. The love, joy, and peace you are longing for is not reserved for a few special people but is available to you as well, as you learn to better recognize God’s activity in your life and how to flow better with the Spirit’s leading day by day.
What expectation can we have for Spirit-led living and personal transformation? Thinking of the Spirit as the wind of God may help us here. As a cool breeze may bring relief in the summer, or as a strong air current may fill a sail, the Holy Spirit can suddenly change our perspective, our feeling, or our capacity to respond to any given situation. Through the Holy Spirit, our experience with the grace of God becomes dynamic, and we are able to sense what was not accessible to us otherwise, and to respond in often surprising and life-giving ways to others.
The Holy Wind breathes new life into us, transforming our thinking, feeling, and behavior even while our basic nature remains flawed and limited. Spirit-led living means just what it implies: we live out our God-given purpose in life by virtue of the Spirit’s ongoing work within us. This happens moment by moment, as we follow the Spirit’s leading, and not by becoming permanently and irrevocably transformed. Our basic human nature is not changed as much as we are enabled to grow in our ability to let the Spirit have its way in us and to keep in step with the Spirit’s prompting. We do in fact mature, but we never stop being flawed, limited human beings.
Over time, our Spirit-renewed minds will more quickly recognize the influence of sin in our lives. On one hand, we will develop a more critical reaction to life-destroying forces and greater distress over their presence in our life and society. On the other hand, we may also become more gracious toward ourselves and others, accepting our human limitations and failures better. We will learn how to become more attentive and responsive to the Spirit’s prompting and leading, more helpful to others, and, as a result, more fruitful in our ministries. Spirit-led living provides us with a way to move from sin and unhealthiness to the life God intends for us—again, not as a permanent, complete transformation, but as a tool for living out of our best self in the moment.
In 2006, I took a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Practically speaking, I realize now that on that trip, God was bringing me to numerous little “bridges” to help me move from one way of being to another. Yet God was also helping me see how often I fail to cross the bridges I encounter—not to discourage me or make me feel bad about myself, but to awaken me to the plethora of opportunities before me every day. I slowly began to realize that no matter how much I prayed to be transformed, nothing was really going to change until I crossed the bridges in my life. God was helping me right and left by giving me opportunities, but unless I took them, my life was going to be same-old, same-old.
We can dream all we want to about what might be, but we have to be willing to do the necessary work to realize our dreams. We have to face reality as well as our fears. We have to set our intention and make choices. We have to line up our values, our visions, and how we actually spend our time and resources. Most of all, we need to learn how to better live in sync with the Holy Spirit. We have to value spiritual vitality and growth enough to learn how to live Spirit-led lives, we have to be willing to invest sufficient time and energy into seeking and finding the spiritual treasures available to us, and we have to seek to better root our lives in God and orient ourselves around spiritual truths.
Whether or not we ever travel a path like El Camino, each of us can learn to better recognize God’s activity in our lives, to live more fully in God’s love, and to fruitfully follow Jesus Christ according to our unique calling and purpose. I’m talking about real transformation, here, and it all comes down to embracing our lives as one long spiritual pilgrimage and learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, one step at a time.
Adapted from One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Spirit-Led Living by Timothy C. Geoffrion, copyright © 2008 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Spirit-Led Living
by Timothy C. Geoffrion
Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk el Camino de Santiago—the Way of St. James—a 500-mile route across northern Spain that has existed for over a thousand years. Tim Geoffrion made this pilgrimage with his wife and teenage sons in 2006. He writes not only about his own journey but about how God works in those who seek to be led by the Spirit. Using pilgrimage as a metaphor for the Spirit-led life, he offers his experiences, thoughts, and reflections as a catalyst for readers’ own spiritual pilgrimage—the lifelong journey of growth into the life Christ intends for us. Whether or not we ever travel a path like El Camino, we can each learn how to better walk our own spiritual pilgrimage, one step at a time.
The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles
by Timothy C. Geoffrion
Designed for pastors, executives, administrators, managers, coordinators, and all who see themselves as leaders and who want to fulfill their God-given purpose, The Spirit-Led Leader addresses the critical fusion of spiritual life and leadership for those who not only want to see results but also desire to care just as deeply about who they are and how they lead as they do about what they produce and accomplish. Geoffrion creates a new vision for spiritual leadership as partly an art, partly a result of careful planning, and always a working of the grace of God.
Cross-Shaped Leadership: On the Rough and Tumble of Parish Practice
by John A. Berntsen
For Lutheran pastor John Berntsen, those who lead are subject to the cross no less than others. Cross-shaped leaders are not primarily the providers of master plans, nor are they master builders. Cross-shaped leadership is provisional, contextual, and fallible—an open-ended ministry that is always under construction and revision. Our moment-by-moment functioning in ministry is subject to countless deaths and resurrections, few of which are heroic or glorious. But Berntsen offers hope and challenge in the midst of the rough and tumble of parish practice.
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