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.” 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.”
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.”
Which chamber are you currently growing into?
 Psalm 118:23
Celebration of Discipline
 The Book of Common Prayer. A Prayer of Self-Dedication, p. 832.