Back in the 90s, I went through Mario Bergner’s Redeemed Lives program twice. At the time it was a school-year long program with reading, a workbook, and three hours every Tuesday night dedicated to worship, a teaching and small group time. It literally taught me a whole new language and began teaching me how psychology, theology and faith (yes, I think it’s different than theology) interrelate. You know Paul’s phrase “transformed by the renewing of your mind?” My mind’s internal framework was rebuilt during those two years, and much of that framework survives still. RL was probably my most mind-altering religious experience, but since it happened over the course of two years I didn’t come to see that until much later, although I certainly felt its effects while attending.
When I began the Christos Center’s program Tending the Holy in 2009, it was a big commitment as well as a financial sacrifice. Their program was two years long with tons of reading, reflection and being vulnerable in small groups. RL prepared me to some extent, but this was another level of commitment to a Godly process, to transformation over the long haul. Unlike Redeemed Lives, which is focused on healing within the small groups and ministry time, Christo’s program feeds you for the journey you’re on, as well as supplying provisions for the journey to come. Christos has given me an appreciation of the transformative and healing power of being on the journey itself.
I am a believer in the journey. Do transformations and miracles happen immediately? Of course! I’ve seen them happen. But can we ever be completely healed in our time on earth? Isn’t part of being human in a fallen world about seeking healing for our wounds? And personally, if part of the entrance exam to heaven is passing through the crucible to be completely purified….well, I think I’d rather have some practice here on earth.
This is what makes our Lenten disciplines so important, so potentially powerful. We may not see any immediate fruit from our “giving up” or “committing to.” But how often do you commit to something difficult and regret it later? We committ to difficult things to grow, to support someone, because of God’s call. And often the fruit of those commitments comes years down the line.
Can you give up immediate gratification for God’s work in you, even if you don’t know what the results will be?
“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”–Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)