Foundational Ideas about Formation (Part II)

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O Lord God, unto whom alone all vengeance does belong; O God who does avenge, shine forth, and do avenge all wrong.

Idea #2: Every person has God-given formative power. (And if you rob someone of his/her formative power, you are working against God.)

Formative power is a part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Formative power means that we have power to participate in our formation. And it also means that when I force my opinions and choices on others (even beloved others) I am robbing them of their God given formative power.

Truly good news! We cannot control everything or everyone around us, but we have great power to choose how people, experiences and environments affect us. “Every day we choose ourselves,” is how Dag Hammarskjold puts it in his journal, Markings.

The power of formation is a gift we seldom value for all its richness. We are choosers and can avoid being ‘determined’ by simple events and causes. Our spirit can rise above situations using formative power, and move us toward a life that is transcendent and perfectly fitting for our unique personal unfolding.

We are also free to choose the deformative option. We can choose against the transcendent invitations coming from our center where God speaks. We can choose ambition over aspiration and ruthlessly pursue selfish ends, finally ending in a kind of personal slavery. By contrast, our ‘yes’ to divine invitations of life will always lead us to greater freedom.

Formative power implies responsibility for our own life’s unfolding. Mindfulness and openness enable us to re-attune when we have lost our way. The spiritual life is not a one time moment. Formative spirituality is as constant as breathing.

Some formation choices may extend their influence over our whole life. Others seem to be held in a moment. But ultimately, we are being shaped into a certain kind of person. And our God given formative power enables us to consciously cooperate in that process.

Think about it: What area of your life do you feel powerless over? How have you coped with that experience of powerlessness? How has this response affected the situation, other people, and most importantly yourself?

When have you tried to rescue someone but in so doing, robed them of their formative power? Identify how you might go about supporting a person without denying them the power to choose themselves.

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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