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Discovering Your

Personal Christian Spirituality.


by W.E. Consiglio MSW D Min.
http://www.rom-828.com.

Personal Christian Spirituality (P.C.S.) is a sui generis spirituality originating


from and responsive to your own unique personal life. It is a spirituality which arises from
the realities of your own particular and individual life, from who you are and what you are
about, from what are your personal struggles and what you encounter in life. It is based on
how God has walked with you through life as he extends his love and grace to you. In this
sense it is particular to you alone, and no one else has quite the same spirituality as you do.
This is why it's called Personal.
It is the spiritual relationship you have with the One True Trinity God who is revealed in
the Bible in the life of the Hebrew people and in the person of Jesus Christ, who is Son of God
and Savior. This is why it's Christian.
It is, in truth, a non-spirituality in the sense that the focus is on your relationship with
God and not upon a concept call spirituality, though the word must be used for the sake of
communicating the idea. The term spirituality is in fact unnecessary.
Your spirituality is whatever has occurred between you and our loving Father God in the
past, whatever is presently happening now, and what will happen in the future. It is therefore
an existential, experiential spirituality. Your spiritual history and status is what matters; the
way you have experienced God.
It is the recognition that our Father God, the Lord Jesus Christ and their Holy Spirit
have always been beside you from the day of your birth, and will be to the end of this life and
into eternal life. You arrived here from the love of God and will one day return home. Your life
is one with Him. You do not live without Him. You have never lived without Him whether you
knew it or not.

Saintly Spiritualities
P.C.S. is the opposite of a formula spirituality which you try to fit into, like, for example,
adopting a Franciscan spirituality, a Benedictine, Augustinian or Ignatian spirituality. These are
good and outstanding methods for seeking and serving God which thousands have followed.
But P.C.S. is not someone else's conception which you place upon yourself like a garment. It is
a spirituality which results from your own discovery of God and how He is working in the
realities and circumstances of your life, how he has taught you and spoken to you and
enabled you to understand his ways with you. God Himself is your best spiritual advisor and
mentor. P.C.S. Is all about your unique relationship to God.
The spirituality of the saints were originally their own personal spirituality; their own
P.C.S. St Francis discovered his spirituality as he lived out the events and circumstances of his
life. Rejecting his father's wealth he became poor. Repulsed by the lepers he kisses them.
Renouncing the garments of a troubadour and soldier he dons the rags of a homeless street
person. Unaware of the world about him when he was absorbed with forging his coveted
recognition and prestige, he becomes a lover of all things natural. Soon a band of followers
adopted the Franciscan spirituality. But it was his spirituality, not theirs.
Your journey with God is always your own. It must be your own. No one else has
encountered God in the same way that you have, because no one else has your psycho-
emotional makeup, your temperament, your life experiences, or your social and cultural
characteristics. Each of us has encountered God differently.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all spirituality.

Temperament
A popular trend in spirituality theory spotlights the importance of shaping spirituality
according to one's temperament. Temperament refers to those individual tendencies of a
person; the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person; his natural
predispositions.
One is based on the Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire (MBTI) developed by
Katharine C. Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. This instrument helps people
understand and use Carl Jungs theory of psychological type preferences.
The Enneagram is another popular temperament questionnaire originated by Riso
and Hudson; a scientifically validated, forced-choice personality test.
Another comes from Gary Thomas' book Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path
to God. He describes nine types of spiritual tendencies or preferences. Thomas says, It's by
the design of a Creator who knew what he was doing when he made you according to his own
unique intentions. In effect he is saying that God gives us our spirituality because he gave
us a certain temperament.
All of these are deterministic fixed rather than fluid formulations of spirituality.
They all say in effect, If you have these temperament characteristics or tendencies, this is
the way you will prefer or are determined - to pray or worship or relate to God. Your
preferred spirituality flows from your fixed temperament.

On the other hand, Personal Christian Spirituality, developed by this author, views
temperament as only one of several possible factors which contributes to spirituality. P.C.S.
emerges simultaneously along with, and as a result of one's unique personal development
from childhood through older adulthood, from your psycho-emotional makeup, your
temperament, your genetic composition, your life experiences and social and cultural factors,
your family limitations or opportunities, your disabilities and talents.
Measuring your P.C.S.

What are the implications of viewing Christian


spirituality in this way?
One implication is that spirituality is fluid, changing,
and growing over the whole of a person's life-span. It is
not fixed to temperament alone or culture alone. It is
only fixed to one factor, the ever-maturing and growing
relationship one has with God.
Since I am describing P.C.S. as having a fluid,
growing nature, another implication is that you can
assess or measure the quality of your relationship to
God at any time. You can ask, What is the current experienced, existential state of my
relationship to God here and now? Am I spiritually Fervent, Floating, Failing or Floundering?

One model for making that assessment is the Four F evaluation schema.
Your intimacy and closeness to God the Father, Jesus and the Spirit fluctuates. You cant
always feel fervent, alive, close and intimate with God. The felt quality of your relationship to
God changes from time to time because your spirituality is fluid and growing! It can progress
and regress. It moves forward, or stops or moves backward. It is good to know what state you
are in.
What is important here is to become aware of where you are with God right now, or
anytime you want to assess your spiritual state. In a similar way, this conceptual tool can be
helpful to assess the spiritual condition of a friend or a person you are helping.
The following descriptions are similar to the four soils in the Parable of the Sower. There
was the hard soil of the path (Floundering), the shallow soil of the rocks (Floating), the weed-
infested soil (Failing), and the good soil (Fervent).
1. Fervent, faithful, filial fellowship with God. (The Good Soil)
This is the ideal state of your relationship to God. It is a victorious spiritual state in
which the Holy Spirit is most active. You have a felt and joyful heart-attachment to Jesus and
the Father. The Word of God is alive, it speaks to your heart. You experience the supernatural
moving and power of the Holy Spirit in your worship, victory over temptation, and praying.
You are able to turn from temptation in strength, not in struggle and indecision and conflict,
but with decisiveness and conviction. You are sin-free. You have a clear conscience. You feel
highly motivated to study God's Word, pray fervently, attend church, fellowship with other
Christians and pursue ministry enthusiastically. You are fruitful in the nine fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:22-23). This state doesn't come from your own power or might, "But by my Spirit,
says the Lord".
2. Floating. (The Shallow Soil)
You move away from God. You begin to take God for granted. You start neglecting the
scriptures . You especially either stop praying or pray without your heart in it. Perhaps you pull
away from church. A routine dullness may be starting to creep into your spirit. You are
gradually becoming spiritually more numb and somewhat rote, even a bit indifferent to
spiritual things. Maybe you're not committing any big sins but you're not very alive inside or
feel connected with God. God seems to be getting distant and remote. Instead of knowing his
presence intuitively, you have to remind yourself of your relationship to God. And as you
continue to float, the Holy Spirit will give you warnings and cautions about what is happening,
but you may be less sensitive to his voice, and dont heed him. To reach for God is to reach
God. Desire for God gives birth to His embrace.
3. Failing. (The Weed Soil)
You move further away from God. You're letting yourself rationalize about sin. Your
relationship to God is becoming increasingly distant, disengaged and empty. You don't
experience the vitalizing presence of God. His voice is becoming softer and more inaudible.
The sweetness and interest and companionship and presence of God are fading rapidly. God is
distant. You are resisting the voice of the Holy Spirit; grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit.
When you are in this state you are failing to respond to the grace of God; you are losing
your reverence for the things of God. God is wrestling with you; God is lovingly trying to
discipline you and correct you and get you back on course; but you are consciously ignoring
or resisting Him. Your heart is becoming hardened.
In the background of your life Satan is compounding this by making you feel
discouraged and indifferent. You hear the deceiving voice of Satan say, Whats the use?
Youre stuck and you cant do anything about it. There is no joy in God, youve lost your first
love, you are a failure and a phony. Give it up!
4. Floundering. (The Hard Soil)
You have moved farthest away from God. You are still his child but now you are his lost
child. You are his prodigal son. God has to use severe discipline.
Afterhe had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he
began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent
him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were
eating, but no one gave him anything, (Luke 15:14-16).
You have been sining without reflection and restraint. Your conscience is dulled. Youre
backsliding fast and living like an unbeliever. Spiritually, emotionally, behaviorally you are
becoming increasingly numb, indifferent, out-of-control. Your heart has become hardened.
You need the warning in Hebrews l2:l5-l6,
"Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does
there can very easily spring up in him a "bitter spirit" which is not only bad in itself but can
poison the lives of many others. Be careful, too, that none of you falls into impurity or loses
his reverence for the things of God."
The Father is longing for you to come to your senses and say,
'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I
will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven
and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired
men.' So he got up and went to his father. (17-29).
And of course, your first desire and effort and longing to return to the Father (which
comes from the Spirit) is seen by your Father God, for even though you are
" still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his
son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (20).
And you say,
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called
your son,' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a
feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is
found.' So they began to celebrate. (21-24).
After such a round of experiences its likely that you will return to a fervent, faithful,
filial, fellowship once again and enjoy the closeness of your Fathers love.

Evolution
Another implication of the P.C.S. way of describing your spirituality is to recognize that
spirituality is developmental and maturational in a similar way as is a person's psycho-
emotional maturity. It grows, runs into hazards, becomes blocked at times, overcomes
obstacles, can't see ahead of itself, is affected by choices and decisions, is highly influenced
by the people one encounters in life, and
goes through times of confusion, anomie, and utter dissatisfaction. In other words, spirituality
is an evolving reality right along with your life. It is what is your changing relationship to God.

Biblical and Church Assessment


Measuring progress in spiritual growth and maturity is not left to ourselves alone. Our
Father God has given us principles, perspectives, attitudes, morals, and standards of
behavior by which we can measure our spiritual growth. Most of these are in the Scriptures
and also from Church teaching and tradition.
This is why every Christian needs to make a long, deep study of the Gospels and
Epistles. We examine the lives of the saints and also ask, What did she or he say and do?
How did they live? In these we discover a standard of spiritual measurement.
We look at Jesus and St Paul and ask, What did they say and do? Here I'd like to give
a sample of passages which serve to sharpen our spiritual lives.
Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Ephesians 3:14-21; Ephesians 4, and 6; The Sermon on the Mount, Galatians 2:20; Galatians
5:16-21; Romans 8.

P.C.S. and the Holy Spirit


It goes without saying, though it must be said, that your P.C.S. is wholly under the
guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. This is the way the Father planned our salvation and
sanctification. After sending us His beloved Son in whom he is well pleased, he sends us His
Son's Spirit. The Spirit leads us into all the truth. He is the Love, the Life, the Light and Power
of the Father and the Son.
Jesus answered, Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they
are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to
spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, Youmust be born again. The wind blows
wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is
going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:5-8.
The Holy Spirit is the divine ambassador, the executive of the Godhead, the
representative of the Father and Jesus on earth. The Bible says that he is a Seal.
He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit,
guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:22. He is a deposit and guarantee of what is
to come in heaven.
1 Corinthians 3:16 says , Dont you know that you yourselves are Gods temple and
that Gods Spirit dwells in your midst? This is a great wonder and mystery; that God should
come to dwell within us. Yes, God our Father and His Son Jesus desired to come and live in our
hearts. God so desired to get deep down inside us and transform us into the likeness of his
Son. He wants to take us over and make us over. God's own Spirit, His own love and light and
life comes deep within us to work the work of holiness; controlling our thoughts, forming our
wills, purifying our desires and motives. P.C.S. Makes us a Spirit-filled person. After Jesus, the
Holy Spirit is the Father's greatest gift to mankind. It is not presents we should seek, but His
Presence. Our heavenly Father says, Rather than giving you many gifts, I give myself to
you. Luke 11:13 says, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to
those who ask him! In Mark 1:8 John the Baptist says, I baptize you with water, but he
will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Describing and Discovering your own P.C.S.


Another more comprehensive exercise for describing your spiritual journey is this 14
item Questionnaire. How do you understand your own spiritual journey with God? In one or
two paragraphs for each question, summarize the characteristics and activities of your
spirituality. Answering these questions should result in a significant description of your own
unique Christian spirituality; your beliefs, prayers, words, scriptures and practices.

1 How would you describe your relationship to the Father?


2 How would you describe your relationship to Jesus Christ?
3 How would you describe your relationship to the Holy Spirit?
4 How has your relationship to God changed over the years?
5 How do you hear from God? How does He speak to you?
6 What Scripture passages have become important to you, and what do they say about
your relationship to God?
7 How does God view sin in your life? How do you view sin?
8 As a child of God, how do you view suffering, trials, troubles, problems?
9 What is the nature of prayer in your life? How has it changed?
10 Describe your on-going search and desire for God.
11 Where or how have you found God?
12 How do you view your own death?
13 How has love been central to your spirituality?
14 What is your relationship to the saints and Mary?

Here is my own P.C.S.


1 How would you describe your relationship to the Father? The Father has become
central to my spiritual relationship to God. Some many years ago, I was led to discover the
Father. I searched for his name in the New Testament and found many passages with rich
devotional appeal. I believe he led me to himself because of my own lack of an adequate
father in my childhood; a lack of a providing, protective, caring and loving father who could
hold me and show me love. Now I direct most of my prayers to the father. The Lord's Prayer
is all about the Father, and I believe Jesus desires us to give is Father and our Father our
thanks and praise. A result of this emphasis upon the Father was an focus upon myself as his
child. So, I especially like passages like 1 John 3:1-2 , Luke 11:13, Matthew 6:6, Philippians
1:6, Psalm 23.
2 How would you describe your relationship to Jesus Christ? I have come to have
moments of love and appreciation and wonder about Jesus. He takes a subordinate place to
the Father but only because that is, I believe, his desire. He wants me to honor his Father, not
him. I know that most Christians place their devotional emphasis on Jesus, and so they
should. But my view is that Jesus came to reveal the Father, and the Father gives us the Holy
Spirit. Jesus said, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you
and be with you forever . Jesus is our Savior, without him we have nothing. Every word and
action of Jesus is holy and most sacred. That's why I like to study the gospels. To see Jesus is
to see the Father. Galatians 2:20 is most important to me and profoundly speaks to my
relationship to Jesus Christ. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ
lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and
gave himself for me. Jesus is just too awesome!
3 How would you describe your relationship to the Holy Spirit? The Father and Jesus led
me to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I view the Holy Spirit as the Love,
Life , Light and Power of the Trinity God. He is a Person but a very unique Person. He is God.
As a Person he is completely unimaginable. While we must not form images of God because
God is Spirit, we can at least give some conceptual meaning to the words Father and Jesus.
But the Holy Spirit is a wisp of wind as Jesus described him in John 3. Yet I have come to know
his working in me by his 10 activities which I call the 10 C's. He counsels, corrects, convicts,
converts, comforts, cleanses, convinces, causes us to confess sin, communes with us, and
conforms us to the restored image of God.
4 How has your relationship to God changed over the years? He has moved from an
unknown external object unapproachable to an knowable internal Person who is most
approachable. His mercy, love and forgiveness have become more prominent.
5 How do you hear from God? How does He speak to you? He speaks to me in a
hundred different ways; through others, through nature, through conscience, through a quiet
voice within, through the 10 C's, through Scripture, through the loud voice of my wife.
6 What Scripture passages have become important to you, and what do they say about
your relationship to God? There are several, but Romans 8:28 is my most valued verse. We
know that all things are working together for good for the person who loves God and is called
according to his purposes. This verse summarizes everything about my relationship to God.
All the events and issues and tragedies and stressful occurrences will eventually be shown to
have worked together for my ultimate good. All my trust and hope and faith and love of God
is there in this verse.
Also Galatians 2:20, Galatians 5: 16 through 2, Psalm 51, Psalm 32.
7 How does God view sin in your life? How do you view sin? Sin is anything which
separates me from God. Anything which breaks fellowship with him. Anything which
diminishes what the Father imagines I am. I must acknowledge it without compromise or
distortion, confess it with sincerity, repent of it, and resolve to avoid it in the future for love of
the Father. 1 John 1:9. On the other hand, I know that God is merciful and forgiving.
I thank You and praise You my Father. You provide for, and care for me. Your Child I am,
though a sinner I be, even though a weak sinner I be!
I thank You and praise You Lord Jesus You suffered and died for me. Your New
Creation I am, though a sinner I be, even though a weak sinner I be!
I thank You and praise You Holy Spirit. You dwell in, and You speak to me. Your
Temple I am, though a sinner I be, even though a weak sinner I be!

8 As a child of God, how do you view suffering, trials, troubles, problems?


I don't like pain or suffering or violence or injury. I fear and dread anger, hatred, illness,
conflict, anxiety and tension. I don't deal with these well and often forget about God at such
times. I know what it's like to be so troubled that I lost sight of God and lost my faith. It's an
effort to pray. I love my pleasures.
9 What is the nature of prayer in your life? How has it changed? Most of my life I have
been confused about prayer. The best prayer I have experienced is similar to Lectio Divina.
That is, taking a Bible passage, making it personal, listening for how God speaks to me
through the passage, and then praying whatever the Spirit of Christ prays from my heart. My
prayer has become more contemplative now, but not easier.
10 Describe your on-going search and desire for God. It is never completed and never
will be. I have gone down many streets and byways in search of God. I now believe he is only
found in myself, in my spirit-heart. The kingdom of God is within you.
The longer we are Christians; sincere, searching and serious Christians, the more we
will be dissatisfied with our spiritual lives. For, in addition to our struggle with the flesh, our
spiritual walk with God seems always to fall short of what we desire and long for. What we
reach for is beyond our grasp, for the object of our longing is God Himself. And though He is
unattainable, He is not unapproachable. Though we may not be able to satisfy our hunger, yet
He calls us to taste and see that the Lord is good. He Himself calls us to know and become
more intimate with Himself. And if He Himself calls us to greater intimacy, He must have
provided a way. That Way, and Truth and Life is of course, Jesus Christ.
William McNamara says, The only way to know God is by experience. There is no other
way. We can get to know him in a hundred different ways. But the only way to get to know
him as he is in himself is by experience.
I especially think of C.S. Lewis, who used the German word Sehnsucht (sane-suxt) to
describe a yearning and "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what."
Lewis felt this latent longing throughout his life, which he later came to understand to be his
desire for the Transcendent One. For he later wrote, The sweetest thing in all my life has
been the longing to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going
back.
In The Problem of Pain, Lewis says, All the things that have deeply possessed your soul
have been but hints of ittantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that
died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifestif there ever
came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itselfyou would know it.
Beyond all possibility of doubt, you would say 'Here at last is the thing I was made for.' We
cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and
unappeasable want . . . which we shall still desire on our deathbeds.
Augustine said, We shall rest, and we shall see; we shall see, and we shall love; we
1
shall love, and we shall praise. Behold what shall be in the end, and shall not end.
11 Where or how have you found God? God is wholly within me. He used to be outside
somewhere and mostly up in the sky. But I know his presence within by his still small voice, by
his nudgings and the 10 C's of the Spirit. God is Truth, God is Love, God is Father, God is Spirit
within me.

1 See Grace and Glory by E.L. Mascall, Morehouse-Barlowe, 1961.


12 How do you view your own death? With fear and trembling, but also imagining
Jesus taking me by the hand, and after a split second of darkness, awakening as from sleep to
the glories and sights of heaven. I rely on the words of Jesus,
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they
die . I 'm hoping that I'll die with a smile on my face like the saints, looking forward to seeing
Jesus and the Father, singing songs, praying well, without fear, ready to take hold of the hand
of Jesus, as I've imagined.
13 How has love been central to your spirituality? I have come to know that love is the
pinnacle of living now and in eternity. Why? Because God is love. The great commandment
about love is central also. I also know that I am a person for whom love has always been a
difficult reality. Both to receive and to give. I'll never understand why love was so difficult for
me. I can only believe that it was violated at a very early age.
Love is such a delicate flower.
To look at it is always beautiful; the smells wonder filled.
But disturb it's roots and soon it fades and sags; is killed.
It's roots are trust, assurance, and confidence that love be not betrayed.
Even when perceived to be abandoned, it is afraid.
Love is such a delicate flower.

14 What is your relationship to the saints and Mary? I admire the saints but seldom
pray to them. However I do say the rosary and have come to understand the special place of
devotion and honor due to Mary. I believe that she has indeed appeared to several people in
many nations and times.
I invite you to engage in this exercise. You will surely discover your own Personal
Christian Spirituality.