Mulholland, Moses and the Maccabees

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For the LDN course we had to read and write about these “characters”. This homework was to connect our passage from the Old Testament to the New Testament and it was due before the beginning of class in September, which was a first for me.

The title of the book by M. Robert Mulholland Jr is “Invitation to a Journey,” with subtitle “A road map for spiritual formation.” The main title sounds inviting, come as you are on this journey. The sub title sounds like a fixed method to achieve a goal. But I realized both titles are necessary. I needed some structure to form my spiritual life and I needed to know it is a life journey.

Mulholland describes spiritual formation as a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.

This formation, or as reformed people like to say reformation, is unique for every individual. Mulholland emphasizes this by affirming that the vehicle to this spiritual formation is through personality and piety.

Mulholland uses Carl Jung’s model of human personality and relates it to spiritual formation. He does this with helpful charts that show the preference side (easy to do things) and shadow side (more difficult to do things) for each personality type as it relates to their spiritual formation.

According to Mr. Jung, who doesn’t even know me, my personality type is INFJ, where the “I” is for introvert. This trait (bold font in my case) allows me to enjoy contemplative practices (being alone) but also make is tough for me to participate in prayer meetings (being in a group).

Yet this quality which I have spent many years trying to compensate for is now, as Mulholland explains, a special part in God’s process of forming me to the image of Christ.

This was my best take away from the book. It is encouraging to hear that God can work through any personality type. The significance is that all of us can be spiritually formed, to be more like Jesus. We all can offer a unique personality, will, mind and heart for God to use. Our personality is no longer an excuse nor a hindrance, but instead, it is a vehicle in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ.

Remember all this is for the sake of others. That is the difficult part for me, the part I have to work at. I cannot allow my INFJness to push aside God’s will for me for building relationships and being involved with people. Oh, and if you are an extrovert there are other areas you need to work at (you can find them in the book).

If I am yielded to God in this process I have even felt a bit of "extrovert-ness" come alive in me. When I heed his call to rezone my comfort zone then the Holy Spirit is at work developing a bit more of Christ in me for the sake of others.

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Love this post! I often forget how deeply personality type influences spiritual formation. My introverted nature often affects my willingness to participate in small groups and other group settings, but it has also allowed me to serve in other ways. It's so interesting to see how different personality types serve the various needs of a church. I love that God works through all personality types, and that he can also push us to grow and move outside our comfort zone too when needed.

 

I appreciate Mulholland's insight.  In a world of "niche" spirituality, he urges us to not only appreciate how God has made us but also how we need to sometimes "play against type" in order to grow spiritually, venture into those areas that are naturally uncomfortable for us, where we feel the most vulnerable and not in control and therefore, find ourselves relying more on the Spirit then our own tendencies and strengths.  As a natural introvert, I've definitely found this to be true in those times when I've been called into extroversion.  

 

An interesting dovetail with this is Gordon Smith's work on conversion, his book Beginning Well, where he notes that moments of spiritual growth/continuing conversion often take place when we are exposed to a Christian tradition not our own.  

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