In order to embrace the message of Richard Foster’s latest book Life With God, it’s important that we first define terms. The intent of the book is guide us in responding to God’s statement and question: “I am with you. Are you willing to be with Me?” Foster has long advocated the practice of spiritual disciplines as methods of intentionally moving ourselves, body and soul, to the place where we meet God in order that we can receive from Him the ability to do what we cannot do on our own. In other words, we purposely place ourselves in the position of being open to transformation so that God can perform this action. We become, to quote Foster directly, “…the kind of person who automatically will do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.” In this transformation, we gain the life that Jesus speaks of in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Foster narrows his focus with this book to the discipline of reading the Bible for transformation, Lectio Divina. This practice stands in contrast to a brace of reasons that people often give as their reason for studying the Bible. The first is to gain knowledge alone. This knowledge is double edged; it often stays in our head only, rarely moving down to the heart and we risk becoming arrogant in our storehouse of biblical knowledge despite the fact that we are not transformed by it. Second, the Bible is often read in search for a formula to solve some pressing issue. This opens us up to numerous possible problems such proof texts pulled out of context ignorant of other contrasting or supporting passages in the whole of scripture.
Transformative reading is bible reading with the heart more than the head. It is listening to the text, submitting to the text, reflecting on the text, praying the text, applying the text, and obeying the text. In each case we bring ourselves to the altar of transformation so that God can receive our sacrifice and perform that change that we ourselves cannot.
Are you currently engaged in this practice? What would you add or subtract from this list?