Spiritual Formation and Crap

I’ve had a crappy couple of weeks at work lately. Fact is, I am there now. It’s lunch. So I am writing (well, it’s not lunch anymore. I finished this on Saturday…).

Then I read this hilarious article on the subject of crap, care of a Laurie Kendrick’s blog.

So it got me thinking.

If you are not familiar with the topic of “spiritual formation,” that’s a fancy new way to say “spiritual growth,” or the process by which Christians change over time. Yes, that’s the theory, that if God really does come into our lives, it will be like an elephant coming into the living room. He is bound to rearrange the furniture.

That furniture re-arranging is the process by which God matures us so that we know Him more intimately over time (lots of time…), repent of our old stuff, and become more like Him in our attitudes and actions.

There are things we can do to help this process along, according to the experts.  Like reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, serving, etc. etc.  These things are called “spiritual disciplines.” But here is what I don’t get. There is this one major thing they (the experts) left off the list:

Crap.

I have found in my 35-odd years of being a Christian that crap is just about the single most effective means of spiritual growth in my life (well, it runs sort of neck and neck with Bible study and friendships).  [Note: if you are not sure what I mean by Crap, please refer to: Crap Defined]

What was good enough for Job and Joseph and Jesus is good enough for me.

One day my older daughter (the one with the sneer, above) told me she had learned about that guy Joe in Sunday School. Joe? Joseph? “No. Not the guy with the colored coat, the guy who all the bad things happened to.” Ah, Job.

Yes, Job. God gave permission to Satan to take away Job’s livelihood and family members (but he kindly left Job’s nagging wife). Then after 40-odd chapters of hearing Job’s friends dump more crap on him and debate the reason for his suffering (i.e., crap), we learn the purpose:

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I… repent in dust and ashes.  (Job  42: 5, 6)

Crap produces a more intimate view of God and repentance.

Then there’s Joe. Joseph. The one who arrogantly bragged to his brothers that he would one day rule over them (he got that news out of the colored coat dream). Shortly thereafter, the annoyed brothers sell Joseph into slavery (I hope my girls don’t pay each other back this way one day…).

Fast forward 20 years: Joseph has gone from slave, to executive, to prisoner, to governor. He’s been through a lot of crap. And, now, when his brothers have reunited with Joseph and stand cowering before him (because he has the power to eliminate them), Joseph lovingly says:

Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish … the saving of many lives. (Geneses 50: 19-20)

Crap builds character and creates humility.

Jesus, you say? Wasn’t he perfect? Yes, but somehow, the Bible also says:

…He learned obedience from what He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

Crap teaches obedience.

Would you be surprised to learn that one of my favorite passages in the Bible is Hebrews 12, which in effect says:

Crap leads to “a harvest of righteousness and peace.”

So I commend crap to you. Don’t listen to those preachers who tell you “God wants to make you rich.” Ask God for crap. Share in Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

And in the end, you’ll have the far, far, greater riches of increased intimacy with the only One who can truly fulfill:

[Our] momentary, light afflictions [are] producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4: 17)

Dear Lord: Thanks for reminding me that crap counts. I hate going through it, but I always love the results. Thank you that you care so much for me that you give me what I need, not what I want. And help me to turn from focusing on my pain to focusing on You, to trust Your good purposes for me.  Amen.

 PS For more on this subject, see: How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?

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10 thoughts on “Spiritual Formation and Crap

  1. Pingback: Longing for a Holiday in Therapy « Necessary Therapy

  2. Ah yes. Crap. I’ve referred to the year of my separation as “the bad year” and “the dark year.” Maybe I should’ve called it “the crap year.” It was the hardest year of my life (so far … it’s scary to say that, I hope it really does turn out to be the hardest year ever), but if I hadn’t gone through that crap, I wouldn’t know this aspect of God or me.

    Good stuff!

  3. Whenever God finally convinces me that I need to make some major change in my life, my first response is always “aw crap!”

    I guess it’s become my signal to him that I’m finally willing to listen and make a change.

  4. Insightful…thanks for the “crap” translation. It cuts through Christian ghetto talk and gets to the point.
    Blessings.

    Thanks! That’s one of my desires, to put Christianity where it belongs, in the hands (and hearts) of publicans and sinners, real folk.

  5. Hey Lorraine,
    As usual – too funny, but so true. I think “crap” is often times God’s number one choice of widdling tools when it comes to character building, or perhaps faith testing and Job and Joseph are definitly the first that come to mind. The sermon at my church today was kind of along this line as well – speaking of when we go through various trials by fire – and it is God’s fire that refines us. Good stuff!

    Anyway too, I finally got your article posted on Walk Two – yeah! Sorry it took me so long but check it out when you have a chance and let me know if it all looks okay and thanks for writing it – I hope you will write again for April’s issue!

    God bless!
    ~Jen

  6. Oh, I need to get my money back on that speed reading course! I guess I should have said “your born-again age” maybe. 😉
    I’m pretty sure you’re still younger than me (but not in born-again years, hee hee)

    Well judging by your picture (above right), I would say I am MUCH younger. LOL!

  7. The Celebration of Discipline book that I am currently rereading and studying is just about your age and it cites many thinkers that are centuries old when discussing “spiritual formation”. I’m glad to hear that it’s finally coming into vogue.
    I believe “crap” might come under “dark night of the soul.” But I’ve never been sure I really understand either.

    “just about your age”… if you are suggesting that I was born in the 80s (right after Foster first published Celebration of Discipline, if that is the book you are reading), well, bless your heart!

  8. You can’t have the good without the bad.

    you can’t have the crappy times without the non crappy times.

    I am sometimes baffled by the big, Cosmic balancing act that we humans have to endure. I don’t get God’s ways and even in my distinct moments of abject clarity, I often scratch my head.

    But that’s faith, isn’t it? Believing when there are times there’s nothing to believe in?

    LK

    It sure helps to know that Jesus came to endure crap right along with us.

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