M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. suggests that spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others (Invitation to a Journey, p.12). In an earlier blog (September 27, 2013), I shared that the spiritual life is one that is characterized by two attributes, consecration and inspiration. Consecration is the dedication of our lives, including our talents and abilities to God’s purposes. Inspiration is the realization that our best effort produces more than what we can reasonably expect; that something else shows-up in the midst of our own best effort, adding value to what we are able to accomplish alone. That something else is God’s power.
A common experience of those who have both consecrated their life to God and experience God’s inspiration is “unconscious spirituality” – the working of God through the devoted man or woman who is unaware of that work until some later time. When at some later date there is a sign or indication that God has quietly used them, there is a renewed confidence and exalted sense of usefulness of a single life placed into God’s hands.
My father experienced this on a number of occasions. Once a man walked into my parent’s place of business and asked me if Mr. Hood was available. Clear to me, this man was unaware that he was addressing Mr. Hood’s son. I introduced him to my father and politely excused myself. For nearly thirty minutes the two spoke softly. I continued my work with more than the occasional glance at their conversation together. Then the unexpected, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. My father placed his hand on the man’s shoulder and the two prayed. Following the prayer, the stranger left and neither my father nor I ever saw him again.
Naturally curious, I asked my father what that was about. Seems this man was a stranger to my father as well. This stranger simply told my father that he had heard that Mr. Hood was a follower of Jesus. He wanted to know what that was like, what it meant in practical terms in day to day life. I remember the answer my father gave. In clear and simple language, he told this stranger that Jesus was God’s Son Who loves each of us very much. Jesus wishes to share life with us, wishes for us to know Him as we can know Him from His teachings and to trust Him. My father shared that he lives in continued conversation, through prayer, with Jesus throughout the day; that he is given uncommon wisdom from that conversation as well as strength. Simply, “I know Jesus is there with me and I trust Him,” replied my father.
This unusual request for my father’s testimony was followed by something even more unusual. The man, with moisten eyes said, “Thank you. You may well have just saved my life.” My father prayed for him and the stranger left.
My father went to bed that night wondering where this stranger had heard that he was a Christian. What brought this man to my parent’s business that day? What did he mean that my father’s story may well have saved his life? These questions remain unanswered – known, of course to God. Though my father would never know the answers to the questions that stirred in his mind, he feel asleep once again with the quiet confidence that God had, in some way, used him for God’s ongoing, redemptive purposes in the world.