In the previous instalment, we saw that inner transformation is only possible by the work of God inside of us. We can’t achieve it through our own will and determination. At the same time, we have to remember that we also have a part to play in the process. God gives the Disciplines, but we have to practice the Disciplines. We saw that Foster talks about “the path of disciplined grace”, because it is free, but also because there is something that we have to do.
Some people say that “Virtue is easy”. This is only true to the extent that the gracious work of God has taken over our inner spirit and transformed the ingrained patterns of our lives. Until that happens, virtue is (very) hard. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))
Before the grace of God’s work takes over, we will struggle to show a loving and compassionate spirit. It is because we are trying to bring something from the outside to our insides. Mostly, what happens, is that there comes something from our inside that we do not want – a biting and bitter spirit. It is difficult to be and to stay compassionate. Once we start to walk on the path of disciplined grace, we will start to discover internal changes. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))
We only receive a gift, but we know that the changes are real. We know they are real, because we discover that it becomes easier to be compassionate. To be full of bitterness has become hard. Love, love from God, has come into our inner spirit, and that has taken over our habit patterns. In the unguarded moments, there is a spontaneous flow of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (the Fruit of the Spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22-23). (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))
There is no longer that tiring need to hide our inner selves from others. We don’t have to work hard anymore at trying to be good and kind – we are good and kind. The hard work would be to refrain from being good and kind, because goodness and kindness have become part of our nature. The natural motions of our lives now produce “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))
In the next instalment, we will see what happens when we turn the Spiritual Disciplines into laws that we “have to do”.