…by John Mark Tittsworth
Have you heard Pastor Scott say we should “engage in ongoing theological (or spiritual) reflection?” It sounds like a high-level skill a few people pick up in some elective course at the liberal arts college. Maybe the term has sat, unexplained and unused, in a mental bucket with “hermeneutics” and “philosophy.” You might not talk about it, but you do it by instinct all the time. I think Scott is urging us to get better at what we already do.
We Reflect on Everything
I enjoyed Nintendo as a kid—especially action games with an interesting story that put me and a friend against the bad guys. When my parents allowed me to play, I stayed with one game until I beat it, which often meant months on end, 30 minutes a day. I adjusted my strategy through challenges and setbacks, always aiming to reach and defeat the final villain. The story of the game defined what was good for my progress and what I needed to avoid. When I failed, I restarted. When I got stuck, I looked for helpful advice.
In the real world, we reflect on everything we encounter based on the story we think we are living. One event feels like progress; one habit feels like a setback. We make adjustments to move toward whatever goal. Sometimes, we aren’t even aware of what goal guides us! “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time,” a clever man said. (If you haven’t yet, name the goal that guides your adjustments.) We already reflect on our life stories.
Compare Your Story to the Story God is Telling
Our reflection becomes theological/spiritual when we compare the story we think we are living to the true story, the story God is telling. The grand story is available to us in writing (the Bible), along with help for understanding our identity in the story, how to make progress, and how to handle setbacks and failures. The Storyteller enjoys helping us find our identity in his story. Others who are trying to live by God’s story also are helpful for seeing the true story and for facing challenges.
Summary: Theological/spiritual reflection depends on the Bible and the Holy Spirit, draws from fellow travelers, and leads to adjusting the story we think we’re living to match our part in God’s story.