You are what you love! Interesting thought, isn’t it? It’s one that has been causing me to think quite a bit about the way we teach and disciple others. Notice that it’s not what we think, but what we love that forms us. It’s not that our mind is not important, but there is more to us than just the intellect. And thus, this is why James K. A. Smith has written extensively about what shapes us as humans.
So what do you love? The answer might not be so obvious. Naturally, for those of us who follow Christ, we would tend to say “Jesus.” But what we really love can be see from our actions. It’s not just what we say we love, but what we do that displays where our affections lie. And not only do our actions display what we love, but they also reinforce what we love. Our “cultural practices,” writes Smith, can be dangerous “when we fail to realize that these aren’t just things we do but things that do something to us.”
We must realize that what we do daily changes us. “Our deepest existential hungers,” according to Smith, “are being trained and habituated (“automated”) without our realizing it.” And the tragedy is that what our culture trains us to hunger and thirst for will never satisfy. So what do we do? We change our habits. “You can’t just think your way to new hungers,” writes Smith. It requires changing what you do which in turn, recreates new desires and new loves.
So you want to be conformed to the image of God? According to Smith, it’s more than just thinking God’s thoughts after Him. It is also desiring what He desires. But to learn to desire what God desires must be bigger than just an intellectual exercise. It must also involve the body and imagination. And for Smith, it is worship that accomplishes this. “Christian worship doesn’t just teach us how to think,” writes Smith, “it teaches us how to love, and it does so by inviting us into the biblical story and implanting that story in our bones.”
It is our gathering to worship in which God calls us, communes with us, listens to us in prayers of worship and confession, and then sends us out to live in obedience to His word that we are shaped and then led to love Him. It is in worship that we are led to see the beauty of who God is and what He has done along with His desires for His creation. And as this captures us, it moves us. Thus, the importance of the act of worship both weekly with a local church and privately each day.
Smith shares a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery which seems to capture much of what he is writing about and hopefully of what I have tried to briefly mention above. Antoine writes…
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.