When we start talking about spiritual practice, spiritual growth, and the like some folks begin to sweat. They think that this necessarily means that there is something we are “adding” to our salvation. Some folks have a deep and abiding worry that somehow talk about spiritual practice necessarily leads to a works based Christianity.
The reality is that the opposite is true.
To truly embrace spiritual practice we must start at the beginning. The beginning is one abiding truth:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10
Grace is the foundation and the fundamental reality of the Christian life. This grace is a radical grace rooted in God's abounding love and enduring faithfulness to his promises.
As we enter into spiritual practice we have to understand that at no time during our practice do we have to worry about God being disappointed in us. Practice is the place of failure. Practice is where we try and try again to grow, to get better, to be more like Christ.
Grace calls us to a place of radical action because we no longer to fear or worry about finding acceptance with God or anyone else.
Grace is radical, free, no strings attached.
Grace makes all things beautiful.
Grace cries out, “Go for it! Try! You can do it, I have you!”
Grace exclaims, “Fear not!”
Because of this overwhelming and extravagant grace we please God with nothing more than our simple faith. Our willingness to trust God is ultimately what pleases God. Think about that reality for just a moment. Our faith, imperfect, small, weak, is what brings God joy. This is grace. This is what is meant by Jesus saying that his burden is light. Yes, we are called to pick up our cross daily, but when we do it in faith it is lighter.
Let's be clear, grace does not make things easy. There is nothing easy about practice or disciplining ourselves to take up our crosses daily. Grace changes the perspective, it changes the paradigm. This practice ceases to be work and becomes joy.
This is how grace makes “beauty out of ugly things,” as Bono says.
As we step into these attempts at spiritual practice, we will fail as we try. That's OK. There is grace. The attempt is what matters.
Trusting that in the practice we will meet God and be changed, that's everything.