By Kate Cogswell
Thank you to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, and celebrated with me throughout this journey as I completed my Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation from the Apprentice Institute in Wichita, KS, this month!
The two questions people most frequently ask me when they hear about the program have been “What is spiritual formation?” and “What will this certificate do for you?” Valid questions which I can only begin to answer here.
For me, Christian spiritual formation is the invitational journey where we cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that God can form us to be more and more like Christ. It’s the journey from curiosity to Christoformity that Pastor Stacey has been introducing to us. It is acknowledging that I can’t form myself to be more like Christ nor will God force me to become more like Him, but we can be transformed as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit through study, soul-training exercises, and community. (Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:1-2, Hebrews 12:1-2)
At the beginning of every Bible study I lead, I share that my hope and prayer is that we won’t end the study simply smarter, but that we would also be changed and able to live differently because of our time with God and each other. This is a path of Christian spiritual formation. A path I am grateful to be on, personally and here at ECC.
As for the second question: The reality is the certificate may or may not ever “do” anything for me; however, the journey towards the certificate has shaped my life and soul in ways that will forever shape my journey forward. Through the books and articles we read, the many reflection questions and soul-training exercises, 4 weeks in Wichita with a community that shared my journey, I have experienced a stretching and growing that allows me to live in the kingdom of God now with an ever-deepening knowing of God and myself and the gospel. I am learning that “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights, and I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.” James Bryan Smith shared these narratives in our first week together in Wichita. They increase my ability to navigate life, and even circumstances I wouldn’t choose, with faith, hope, and trust in our God. These statements are true for you too.
Our spiritual formation, our life in Christ is a journey. To borrow Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG): “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
I look forward to allowing the Holy Spirit to continue to form me toward Christoformity and to sharing the journey wherever and however God allows. May we continue to hear God beckoning us onward with a heart open to traveling toward Jesus together!