Growing into the Adjoining Chamber

I haven’t seen the ocean in awhile. That means the next time I go I will sense a little more clearly the thinness of the veil between heaven and earth. In the meantime, I remember. There are treasures there in the ocean, the kind that teaches us what is right and true and noble. Remember the narwhal?

Another is the chambered nautilus. It is a symbol for spiritual formation because as it grows, it develops and moves into a larger adjoining chamber sealing off the old one with a thin wall but never discarding it. A new nautilus begins life with four chambers and as it matures may have 38 or more. From the outside these chambers form an incredible ornate and attractive spiral.

Three chambers to inhabit and carry with us are:


“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”[1] It is beautiful to nurture the trust that within our unique personalities and circumstances He started the work of shaping us and He will see it through. When we notice what He has created in us, our spirits proclaim with His that it is good. That can be closely followed by despair that we haven’t yet escaped some miry spots in our characters.

So Richard Foster writes, “When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside.”[2]


It is essential to recognize that forming a spirit is God’s doing. It is also essential to actively develop the adjoining chamber so that it is ready when the time comes to move into it.

In Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, Mark Buchanan writes that there is a season of the soul, winter to be precise, in which not to acquire anything new, but turning inward to let what faith we have sustain us, not passively but being faithful to the disciplines already cemented into our days. Then comes spring, when our souls are alive to strip away what isn’t life giving, nurture what is, and acquire new life-giving practices.

Faithfulness looks different in different seasons, but until we steward the spiritual riches we have already obtained, there won’t be more to discover.


Tune into disillusionment. Have you ever acquired a new discipline thinking that it is the panacea of spiritual disciplines only to find that after faithfully practicing it for a while it tarnishes and fails to take you to the heights it once did? So, you become nostalgic for those moments when you felt close to God, or self-critical reaching for those spiritual bootstraps.

What if there’s a better interpretation for that disillusionment? Buchanan also writes (I highly recommend his book, by the way) that each chamber “draws us in only to draw us out, to take us elsewhere, to get our hopes up only to set our hopes on something else, something better, something bigger. That something else and bigger and better is heaven. Miss this, you’ll waste your life chasing that which no (chamber) can create but only hint at, only beckon us toward.”

Spiritual formation may be the one area where discontent is good fruit. In that we develop both the urgency and the patience to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Pray with me. “Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”[3]

Which chamber are you currently growing into?

[1] Psalm 118:23

[2]Celebration of Discipline

[3] The Book of Common Prayer. A Prayer of Self-Dedication, p. 832.

Photo Credit: Allie_Caulfield via Compfight cc


  1. Elizabeth September 7, 2014

    This is marvelous. And so timely. This is the week I set aside to begin some disciplines I have wanted to incorporate into my life for awhile. We had a seaside holiday two weeks ago, and after I recovered from normal, daily life (which needed some recovering), I realized that I wasn’t doing the things I wanted to do, for lack of having a plan. So I made a plan. . .

    Looking forward to more discussion on this topic this week. 🙂

    1. Danielle Wheeler September 8, 2014

      This week my family and I are also stepping into a new routine/ schedule.  It’s one that we’ve prayed about and gone over and over in order to make our priorities firmly established (It hasn’t been easy!!).  It very much feels like growing into the adjoining chamber, like a beckoning towards what is life-giving.  So I’m right there with you, Elizabeth.  Here’s to having a plan!

      Kim, there’s so much richness in your words here.  It’s one that needs to be read again to absorb all the goodness.

      1. Kimberly Todd September 8, 2014

        Thanks, Danielle.

        Yes, aligning priorities and routine/schedule is most definitely not an easy process, but it is such a worthy one. Our family is working it out (again), too. Patience and perseverance required. I’m praying for you and your family this week.

    2. Kimberly Todd September 8, 2014

      Many leaps in my faith have happened by the sea; I’m happy to find a kindred in that. Glad this met the moment for you, Elizabeth. I will pray for you this week as you implement your plan.

  2. laura September 8, 2014

    These words sink deep.   Thank you.

    As I and our family focus on settling into a new routine I am so encouraged by the picture of growth that builds on the past – not trying to cut the past off yet not staying in the past either.

    For this season, I am learning to lean into trust.  Simpy trust.

    1. Brittany September 10, 2014

      Me too.  It is clearly a season for new routines and fresh beginnings.  The Holy Spirit is working on me in patience.  I see Him working in so many areas, areas that hurt, and I’m so frustrated that I’m not further along in my growth. “The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.”  But I want him to work faster!  I want to be finished.  I’m tired of stumbling.  So I’ve definitely got some discontentment with my own unholiness.  I fall more into being self-critical, but the Father is working in my heart to keep my eyes on Him, not myself.

      1. Kimberly Todd September 13, 2014

        My accuser often uses my own voice to tell me what a jerk, fool, loser I am. Then I am reminded of Luther, that great theologian of grace. When the accuser came to him, he agreed. Ha! “You’re right, Enemy, I am all of those horrible things. But Jesus…” That’s not who Jesus says I am, and He has made such an investment in me that I KNOW my slow growth, and yours, is no quick fix or white-washed outside. We’re being redeemed, Brittany, and that’s a lifetime worth of work.

  3. Kimberly Todd September 8, 2014

    It’s a helpful image, isn’t it? I believe Oliver Wendell Holmes was the first to discover it. He wrote this poem:

    Trust on, dear friend.

  4. Morielle September 10, 2014

    This is a wonderful metaphor that will stick with me. I may have seen the birth of a new chamber this morning. Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say I had neglected a previous key chamber and re-discovered it, to my joy! I have been memorizing and praying prayers from Scripture for loved ones in my life, and recently finding it exhausting. This morning I was working through my list, praying Ephesians 2:14-19 for each name, when I realized that I too desperately need what I was asking for on behalf of my loved ones. As I took the time to cry out on my own behalf and out of my own exhaustion and the overwhelming circumstances of my own heart, tears of relief just started pouring down my face.

    It was as if God was saying, lovingly, you have had the words for so long: why didn’t you ask sooner?

    Of course, the same sorrow was still there and the same temptations have assaulted me throughout this day, but I started to comprehend what it means to lean on the Lord’s strength and not my own.

    1. Kimberly Todd September 10, 2014

      Morielle, your experience reminds me of a quote from Frederick Buechner that means a great deal to me:

      Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.

      1. Morielle September 11, 2014

        Thank you so much, Kimberly, those words are profound. I have written them in my Bible, with Lamentations. I will use them to guide me in my prayer the next time I find myself in tears.

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