“Superficiality is the curse of our age…. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
This superficiality is seen on many different levels. Theological Schools and Leadership Courses often breed leaders who upon returning home, after an inspiring time away, cannot get out of bed in the morning and be motivated to face the challenges of ministry and life. This can be due partly to the difficulties that were not expected. The good seed sown is not safe until we absorb it deep into the soil of our lives. The general feeling of disillusionment, lack of vision and sense of failure can often be due to the lack of theological reflection in our lives.
Theological reflection is a process through which individuals or communities reflect upon their experience in the light of their faith. In our spiritual formation, theological reflection is key. It is the primary way in which life and faith merge. As we think about the bigger picture we try to make sense of and relate a given experience to other experiences we or others have had. We consider how it affects our relationship with God. Reflecting like this is to reflect “theo-logically.” It positions us in a place where we can know and be known on a deeper level. We enter the unseen reality, that changes the way we see and respond to things.
Theological reflection has far reaching benefits. It matures us, helps us to make better choices, deepens our walk with God, leads us in paths of righteousness and connects us to a great cloud of witnesses. It also aids the process of discernment, which we need so badly. Theological reflection helps us to access the mystery of God’s presence and leading in our lives.
Theological reflection is about paying attention. Waiting for the fog to lift, catching the glimpses of the divine working in our lives and connecting the dots.
There are many ways to reflect theologically; I suggest this easy to remember model:
Reality: Be honest about what is going on in you and around you. What experiences often come back to you? It can be that you have not allowed them to rest or they have not been digested properly through the process of theological reflection. They come back because there is still something in them you need to explore.
Reflection: That requires time and commitment to digest the experiences in the light of your faith and your understanding of God. If you take this experience and put it in front of the mirror of Christian faith what does it reflect back to you? Has it changed shape as you look at it now?
Revelation: Wait for insight, this inner witness, the revealing of mystery… some things will take a lifetime to reflect upon before the revelation is given. Wait.
Respond: The aim of theological reflection is not only to gain new insight or information but to be spurred on to new action, or to continue on with a renewed sense of vision and motivation.
Reflection does not or should not relax us so much we become sleepy in our daily life; it is more like a rest before entering life again. Better still, be a ‘walking doing reflecting person,’ learn to reflect on your feet, with a portable sanctuary inside you. Be open to enter a new reality; with a better and healthier understanding of yourself and others, a reality that is stripped from prejudice and lies.
Then the boring becomes interesting. Then you are a theologian in its most profound sense.
Joanna has a passion for mentoring female leaders to become mentors for a new generation. She is a founding director of One Rock, a board member of Renovare UK, and an associate lecturer at Oasis College. In her spare time she loves taking photographs of nature, and playing with her cat Chester.