Awakening to Active-Contemplative Spiritual Practices

Brad M. Griffin | Mar 25, 2011

Phileena Heuertz isnt the first writer to liken the Christian life to the journey of waking from sleepfulness. The idea that spiritual practices help us wake up and become fully alive to the life God has for us is an ancient one.

Thats part of what I appreciate most about her memoir of spiritual awakening in Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life. Heuertz draws from the rich history of the contemplative traditions to invite us on a pathway that might feel foreign to modern American evangelical spiritual formation. In other words, this book pushes us beyond have a daily quiet time into other Christian disciplines from which we might discover deeper life with God.

I first met Phileena and her husband Chris while a student at Asbury University, where they graduated ahead of me. They went on to lead a mission organization called Word Made Flesh, grounded in life among and advocacy for the poor. Tracking closely with a number of our friends who have served through WMF over the years, I have been impressed with the level of humility and vulnerability the community brings to the table as they practice a way of life together, what they call lifestyle celebrations.

Pilgrimage of a Soul tracks Phileena across her personal spiritual renewal through a season of sabbatical after twelve years serving the poorest of the poor. Chris and Phileena made a physical pilgrimage during their sabbatical, hiking the nearly 500-mile El Camino de Santiago to join travelers over 1,200 years who have made that same pilgrimage. Along the way, they both discovered something deeper about God, themselves, gender and spirituality, and about their work among the poor.

Im reminded of this book during Lent because this season in itself can be a pilgrimage, a journey of spiritual awakening. Phileena writes:

As we spend forty days in intentional reflection on the passion of Christ, a grace is opened up for us to take inventory of the passion we may find ourselves enduringThe paschal mystery is a grace-filled invitation to be accompanied by God through awakening, longing, darkness and death. The mystery reminds us that death does not have the last word. (Heuertz, p 121)

This season and beyond, what are the practices that cause you to awaken to God? What practices tend to stir that awakening in the students you serve, or your own kids?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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