Terraforming and Transforming
“Whoever says, ‘I abide in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked.” (1 John 2:6 NSRV)
In a previous post, I shared some details regarding my Christian journey over the past (2019) year. I wrote that part of my discipline was the practice of being fully present with others, as well as being fully present and fully engaged in tasks that did not involve others. This was an exercise in consecrating every moment and action as a sacrificial offering of worship to God. I think this is what it means to truly practice the presence of God. Admittedly, I did not achieve perfection with this practice and I found it one of the more, perhaps most, challenging and life-forming acts I’ve engaged in during my Christian formation over the past 20 yrs. This way of being present will forever be part of my ongoing formation and will undoubtedly shape the arc of my journey with Jesus in ways that I would have previously not imagined.
In addition to this way of practicing the presence of God always and in every moment, my posture for engaging each moment is being intensified. This intensification is being accented with a sense of clarity, focus, and purpose. The sum of these accents translates to minimizing distraction, eliminating chaff from my life, and keeping my calling, gifts, and mission as the waypoint guides for following Jesus in the seasons that extend before me.
Isn’t it tectonic?
As I continue my slow reflection and discernment about this New Year and entry into the next season of my Christian formation, a new image
has emerged. I’m no geologist and I haven’t fully explored this imagery, but the profoundness of its illustration strikes me as accurate. The picture of landmasses being formed, terraforming, by the shifting of tectonic plates came to me the other day while considering my past, my present, and future possibilities.
Plate tectonics is a theory that describes the way that continents form. This process also includes dynamics and forces at work that influence earthquakes, volcanoes, and a host of other geological events that literally shape, form, and create the physical world in which we live.
I think the parallel that was my eureka moment with this tectonic illustration is the observation that terraforming is extremely slow and seemingly invisible work… This sounds a lot like the processes of spiritual formation. Again, while my knowledge of this theory and the processes involved in it are limited, exploring those processes reveals deeper similarities.
Terraforming in the tectonic process occurs deep within the earth. The large, shifting plates, move slowly with overwhelming pressures and forces from every imaginable direction. Far above on the surface, appearances can seem calm and unchanging. For some geographic regions, the landscape may be plains land with no elevation, hills, or mountains. Still, deep within, the formation process continues…these are the forces that form planets.
The spiritual formation process seems not unlike the terraforming process. Deep within, forces are at work within us. As we submit and shift, bend, move within our soul, “plates” move. Our thinking changes, our emotions heal and change, our ideologies shift, and ultimately our “world” view is changed as well. The culminating effects of this soul terraforming is a renewed mind, restored soul, and the inner and outward appearances of a new creation.
The landmass perspective manifests itself in sometimes cataclysmic events that can be trauma-inducing, like volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, and more. While these events can be horrific in their initial appearances, in time they are instrumental in creating life-sustaining, even awe-inspiring habitats suitable for humans to thrive and flourish.
I think the spiritual journey is very similar.
The tectonic work of spiritual formation (as painful and brutally slow as it may be) splits and reforms the hemispheres of the soul creating continents of grace where God is at work healing, bringing peace, and making us to flourish in his image. It can be cataclysmic. It can be traumatic. It can hurt. That is okay. This is how worlds are formed and it’s no different for kingdoms—including God’s kingdom within us.
The actions, exercises, and disciplines that will help me grow into the image of Christ as God are the necessary parts of this tectonic process that require my participation. Alone, the yoke is not easy but surrendered to Jesus, the burden will be lighter. Here’s to volcanos and earthquakes.