Why Spiritual Disciplines So Often Miss the Point


Sequence is everything. What comes first? What comes second? One way of seeking God begins with what we do. The other way begins with what God does.

The life hid with Christ in God is a life of pure receiving. I find at least five basic ways of receiving identified in Scripture:

Breathe. Hear. See. Eat. Drink.

Note how each one requires receiving. Each requires us to receive something from outside ourselves. Each requires us to turn to some source of giving: air, sound, image, bread, wine.

Why is it that my starting place has so often been these five words:

read, pray, fast, serve, give?

It’s not that I’m not interested in that list. I think so often I’ve just gotten the wrong list first. I want to get back to the most fundamental realities.

To do that I must return over and over and over again to the most fundamental fundamental of all: Receiving.

Maybe that explains it. I think that in order to receive I must do something, some practice or discipline or exercise.

But what if there is a place preceding receiving? I think there is such a place, but it’s not so much a place as a posture. It’s not a discipline but a disposition of heart. It’s the prerequisite to receiving.

I think it’s gratitude.

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.  Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” -Thomas Merton

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