Renewing a darkened spirit


“God aims first to renew man’s darkened spirit by imparting life to it, because it is this spirit which God originally designed to receive His life and to commune with Him. God’s intent after that is to work out from the spirit to permeate man’s soul and body.”
Watchman Nee

This is a picture of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, GA. It is obvious upon first glance that the Cathedral is getting a bit of a facelift. If you ever travel much, especially to larger urban cities, particularly in Europe, you will certainly notice those buildings that are in the process of being restored, remodeled, renewed. The scaffolding is usually put up and immediately the entire surface is covered with a type of “drapery” film that usually has an image of the restored building or some sort of advertising. Seems the “powers that be” consider the draped film more attractive for viewers rather than the unsightly scaffolding–as the work is now going on under and behind the scenes.

Personally I think I prefer the scaffolding as I have the opportunity of seeing the actual work taking place. Drapery or scaffolding, either way, the look can be a bit unsettling especially when you walk up to the building expecting to see a historical, lovely and stately piece of architecture, but rather, you are met by a giant blanket or metal contraption.

It’s all about restoration. Whereas we may not be covered in scaffolding and drapery, we too get to the point where we need to be restored—we need some “work”—-and I’m not necessarily talking about the outside physical restoration that many seem to think so necessary such as a literal facelift, tummy tuck, a little augmentation here or there (see the post “These feet were made for Love”–March 27th regarding western culture’s obsession with physical appearance). Outside work has its place I suppose, especially as we may need to tone up and perhaps lose a little added weight, but it is the internal condition that is my focus today.

The restoration I speak of is what is needed on the “inside”–within our very being and soul if you will. I love this quote by Watchman Nee. He reminds us that it is indeed our spirit which is intended to be that which is receiving of God’s Spirit–however, we cannot do this if we are in poor shape. If our soul is dark or dim, if we have allowed ourselves to be swallowed up by our external lives without addressing our internal condition, then we are in no shape to receive, nor may we receive, the light of God. So the work must begin..and that work is not always what we think or believe necessary.

Restoration and renewal is a lifelong process as we are never where we truly need to be– which just means we are constantly having to have “a little work” done—that little analogy of God being the potter and us being the clay—as He gently and constantly works to form and shape us, most often having to always begin again and again.

I think I am glad that I am never where I exactly need to be–because I have yet to find myself to be “perfectly” complete. I may become comfortable and “situated” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m in a “good” place—there’s time for some “work”…a little remodeling.

I am greatly encouraged knowing that God is constantly at work on me, He never seems to throw His hands up in the air in frustration and walk off exclaiming that I am simply impossible to work with—which I know too often is actually the truth….but persevere He does—working, remodeling, repairing, polishing, preparing all that is within me, so that I may not only receive His light but that I may in turn reflect His light to others,

Here is to the remodeling of self and soul— just please excuse the mess as I am a work in progress!!

7 comments on “Renewing a darkened spirit

  1. Val says:

    I went to go looking for a “sanctification” post (the formal theological doctrine for this idea) and found…I don’t have one?!?!?! This amazes me, because I’m the butterfly girl, “sanctification” is one of my favorite things to write about — metamorphosis of the soul. I guess I just haven’t written about it lately because it’s been more a season of trials and “dark night of the soul” (and if I haven’t shamelessly plugged Thomas Merton’s The Ascent to Truth to you, I’m doing it now — it’s Merton on mysticism, specifically St. John of the Cross).

    I’m Presbyterian (which is John Calvin via John Knox — the Scottish Reformed church, as opposed to other Reformed churches based on Calvin’s theology elsewhere, e.g., the Puritans in England). Presbyterians aren’t “high” church, but we still have a liturgical tradition of creeds, confessions, and catechisms that define our beliefs as Reformed (differing somewhat from Lutherans and sometimes WIDELY from Methodists and Baptists). THE “Presbyterian” confession is The Westminster Confession of Faith, which has two catechisms associated with it (“catechism” = teaching tool to learn doctrine by question/answer format); the two Westminster catechisms ate simply known as “The Longer Catechism” and “The Shorter Catechism.”

    That said…

    The text in the Bible that points to sanctification is 2 Corinthians 5:17 — “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (ESV) Now, I don’t love everything about Westminister, it has its strengths and its failings, and overall I like The Second Helvetic Confession better on many things, but the best, most concise, brief-yet-deep definition/explanation of the doctrine of sanctification I’ve ever found comes from “The Shorter Catechism”:

    Q. 35. What is sanctification?
    A. 35. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

    And sometimes that can be a very “pardon our dust” kind of process indeed!

    • I’m all about Grace–as it is for that very thing that finds me here, chatting with you 🙂
      I am a product of God’s merciful Grace and it is for that very reason that I find myself always wanting to “share” and “teach”, albeit in a quiet and subtle way…..we are all, always in need of that Grace—and I suppose I see that by that Grace, I find sanctification–as it comes to me, as to others, by the way of the blood of the cross—a sacrifice made for me, unworthy, often unredemptive, but made none the less free of charge……
      Which can all lead back to my love of Bonhoeffer and the whole cheap grace vs costly grace interest I have…that’s singing my song. You know that as an Anglican, I am steeped in the Book of Common Prayer–our liturgical and ritualistic service is woven into my very fabric—regardless of my now distancing myself from the Episcopal church’s leap into life that is a bit more “liberal” than I prefer—-
      God’s Grace has shinned on me as I was once in a dark abyss…an internal darkness of self doing, but I climbed out by way of a rope of Grace, that I just so happened to see God throw my way when I was most unworthy…unworthy of His “rope”, let alone Holy glance—I am forever grateful for and to God’s saving Grace. I suppose I have seen how none of us are worthy and we all fall short, some of us more so than others it seems, but He constantly stands at the ready—always waiting….
      … is the simplistic language of such that speaks to my heart, not so much my intellect but more to my heart. That is one of those “charismas” the catholic and eastern orthodox church claim–my “charisma” has always been a heart that feels too deeply and often most painfully—it of course has hardened somewhat due to life’s journey—but it is how I have learned to communicate—more through my heart–the feelings and emotions—the palpable sensation of the the Sprit. And it is to that degree that I tend to lean when “teaching” and sharing—-my audience has most always been kids/ young people—I have had to word my “sharing” often in language that speaks to them— a bit more honest and straight forward–less wordy but still words that command respect and attention—-
      I also suppose that to me, it’s a big deal, this Grace business—and it’s so hard for me to see the world just pass it by like it’s nothing–I want to often scream out to a deaf world–“don’t you see, don’t you get it??!!” But age and life have tempered that raw emotion—that now I simply continue expressing all of that in a more subtle and quiet way…….

      • Val says:

        It is the weirdest thing in the world that grace can be so easy to take for granted — that the world did not spin off its axis thus far, does that mean it won’t tomorrow. I don’t know if you caught my “How it really is” post the other day, but what frustrates me sometimes (especially about Christians) is that when some story or other of my circumstances is revealed (which does not match what they assumed was the reality of the bright little creature before them, they are shocked, horrified, shaken, and sometimes even try to come up with reasons why it is somehow my fault. The answer is simple: “But for the grace of God go you.”

        Grace is easy to take for granted.

        I’ve not been well again this weekend, so my brain is fuzzy, trying to think how to explain this. Sanctification was surely kicked-off by the death and resurrection of Christ, but sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit. Atoning sacrifice is just the beginning, it’s what unlocked the door. Sanctification is the beautiful work that continues the rest of our lives.

        Yep, you know I love Bonhoeffer too. The Cost of Discipleship is brilliant. I’m hanging out with Merton, Nouwen, snd Francis Chan presenly, but I got Ethics as one of the things I bought with a gift card from a friend for my recent birthday.

        I love historical theology. I’m all for liturgy, as long as it is viewed properly. It’s easy to get lost in liturgy and lose God in the process.

        Thomas Merton just said things…well. There is a beautiful quotation on sanctifying grace here: — actually the entire theme of that particular post fits well with this one.

        Another favorite Merton quotation is here:

        “Surroundings in which he does not disdain to operate” indeed.

        You know Mother Teresa’s line that you have to “notice”? Finding grace requires intentionality and humility. In order to find grace, we need to acknowledge that we need it.

      • as the kids would say “I feel you on that”–it almost drives me to tears, or anger, thinking about how people just don’t get that they, we, all need that Grace–but you’re right–it is the humility aspect and that’s a tough number for so many….
        I’m sorry you’ve been poorly again–I did head to the doctor last week and got a steroid shot for my constant sinus worry–two surgeries and my sinuses still give me fits..par for the course in our ever blooming world here….
        I have Thomas Merton’s book(s) as well as St John’s Dark Night–I tend to live that dark night on and off 🙂
        did you know that John Paul II wrote his first of two doctoral theses on St. John of the Cross’s works—in Spanish mind you as he thought it important to do so in the native language …
        Feel better!!

      • Val says:

        My current trouble is back/neck/shoulder pain causing headaches and nausea, but rooted in muggy weather. I’ve been overdoing it cleaning to try to get the pigs home. #nightmare Thank you for your well-wishes, I hope your ankle is healing well.

        Maybe you’ve noticed I’m sassy? I was born sassy — sassy and independent. I was not a “Can oo hep me pweese?” kind of a two year old, I was the “I do by MYself!” kind.

        There is a part of the human soul that never outgrows that.

        We are not a humble nation, humility is not counted a virtue in our culture, it’s counted a weakness. But in order to acknowledge and receive grace, one needs to first acknowledge and accept that he or she is not the center of his or her own universe. That’s a hard sell in a nation that deifies rugged individualists. I perpetually get into an argument with an individual in my extended fsmily that she cannot be both a staunch fundamentalust rugged individualist anarchist Libertarian and a Christian — the values of the two are pretty mutually exclusive when you start aligning yourself with folks like Jefferson and Emerson. The root of staunch individuslism is always a lack of humility, because you’re always the star of the show. Kinda doesn’t work when you’re in Jesus’ spot.

        I didn’t know the connection on St John of the Cross and John Paul II, that’s pretty cool.

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