What’s Forming Us?

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Blaise Pascal wrote, “All men seek happiness, this is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” If this is true, then it means that we will do whatever it takes to find happiness. But our search within the creation, according to Pascal, is to no avail. We seek and seek only to come up empty. Why? Because we are searching in all the wrong places.

“The infinite abyss,” writes Pascal, “can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object.” Augustine more famously stated the same type principle when he wrote, “God, You made us for yourself and our soul will not find rest until they find rest in thee.” We were created to be loved by God. And not only were we created to be loved by Him, but we were created in His love as well. We were not designed to be apart from God.

You know the story, however. Our first parents made the decision to go it alone. And we have followed suit ever since. Now I know we know this (or at least I’m assuming most of those who are reading this do), but it seems we still seek after those things that only bring fleeting happiness. Why is this?

I have recently been reading some of James K. A. Smith’s work. In You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, he writes that we are unconsciously being lured into loving ultimately those things which in themselves were never meant to be loved so strongly. Notice that he said “unconsciously.” We are not even aware of how we are being shaped.

For Smith, our formation as humans is bigger than what we know. We are more than just cognitive beings. It’s what we love that forms us. “We become what we love,” he writes. “And you might not love what you think.” The world around us does really well at molding our hearts without us even knowing it.

One example for Smith of how the world forms us is in the area of consumerism. Consider the mall experience or the commercials we watch. These things go after our heart, not just our minds. They show us that to have the good life you need to own this product or buy this experience. And it’s all so subtle. Personally, I think we know that having the new iPhone won’t lead us to the promised land, and yet we have to have it (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with getting a new phone…I think).

So what do we do? Smith argues that we need to see through the “liturgies” of the world around us. And how do we do this? One way is through story. Though the “consumerism story” can be quite appealing, there is a better story. A story that brings ultimate fulfillment. We know it as God’s story. And we must let it rewrite the story that our world tells us.

To have our story rewritten according God’s story, however, involves more than just our minds. It involves our bodies. Smith writes that the “practices of the church are a spiritual workout, inviting us into routines that train our heart muscles, our fundamental desires that govern how we move and act in the world.” Our days must be spent adjusting our lives to God’s word in obedience. It is the actions of obedience that move our hearts and cause greater belief.

I’m still thinking through much of what I’ve written in the paragraphs above. As a result, you may read more of what I’m plodding through in later posts. But until then, let’s dive into The Story and let it redirect what we do and therefore, change what we love.

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