Why have we so easily assumed that spiritual formation is an urgent concern only in the early decades of life — perhaps the first two or three decades?
It’s a sad myth to believe that faith formation happens only (or primarily) during the early chapters of life. I’m a long time past the “early chapters” and I’m increasingly aware of the fact that my formation still continues. Two conversations during my ministry have stuck with me.
In a conversation during a pastoral visit with a parishioner much older than I, I got a big surprise. We were discussing life’s journey — with all its assurances, joys, and struggles. He shocked me by admitting that he has a greater struggle with temptation and doubt now in his sixties than he did in his twenties. He said he always assumed that by this stage in life things would really settle down and go smoothly. Not so for him, by his own admission.
The second conversation took place after a youth service. The youth of the congregation led it well, but, of course, most of it focused on the concerns and issues of adolescents. At the close of the service an 82-year-old lady of the congregation, one whom I considered to be above average in spiritual maturity and grace, came to me with a very pointed observation — reinforced by her pointed finger. “Don’t ever forget,” she said, “that it’s not just kids, but also all those of us much older, who often have a very tough time living the Christian life!”
I wonder — what led us to buy into the myth that most formation happens early? Who sold us the story that formation isn’t life-long? And how would our ministries and our energies be redirected if we really adopted the life-long viewpoint?
What do you think?
(Of course, when I arrive in glory my formation will finally be completed.)