Mental Health Grows Through Little By Little Dance Steps

Spiritual Formation that changes our Mental Health is found through ‘Little by little’ dance steps with God.

‘Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.’

With these words, Richard foster begins chapter one of his classic best-selling book ‘Celebration of Discipline’.

I remember reading this classic 37 years ago. That superficiality, that desire for instant satisfaction is still with us and is still a primary spiritual problem.

Are you ok with going deep?

I remember as a child watching my parents have daily devotions together. They would read a portion of The Reaper, a daily devotional put together by various lecturers of a local Bible college, then I imagine they prayed together.

They had habits, exercises, disciplines that nurtured their journey of faith.

[pullquote]God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity[/pullquote]

There is something very powerful about the habits we keep. They keep us.

My mother kept a habit of Bible reading and it kept her.

I wonder if there are some spiritual habits, disciplines or exercises that can help our mental health?  

One of deepest things I have learnt about knowing God is that if you want to hear the music of the dance then you have to be on the dance floor. I call it ‘Getting in the way’.

I’m not sure why I call it this, but it has a lot to do with being attentive to what God might be saying and doing. Observing everything and anything and asking if God is speaking to me in this.

It’s a kind of a dance where you are listening to the music and trusting your partner is too.

Here is an example.

I was trying to find a very obscure passage of scripture the other day. I knew it would be hard to find and I searched and searched and searched. I knew some of the key words and concepts, but I just couldn’t find it anywhere.

So I prayed and asked that Spirit (Holy) would do something about this.

My dance partner was listening!

The next day I happened to be listening to the end portion of a Podcast called The Daily Audio Bible. The speaker was recalling some of the key points of a passage he had just read from Deuteronomy and there it was. The verse had been disclosed.

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little.
You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once,
or the wild animals will multiply around you. Deuteronomy 7:22

The point is that if I didn’t have the habit of listening to the Podcast I would most likely have not have found the verse. 

Why that verse?

It’s the little by little that I like. It’s the idea of a millimetre ministry that God was doing in the people of Israel and does with us.

Spiritual Formation takes time and it’s a partnership dance between us and God. This is why my logo is Four dancing spirals. Father, Jesus, Spirit (Holy) and us.Turning the page logo spiral mental health spiritual formation

That verse points very clearly to the idea of partnership. That this formation of a people was Gods work. That God would be the primary force of change. That God would be the one making the changes and would even limit progress for their own benefit.

When I hear the words Spiritual Disciplines, Exercises or Habits I think hard work, will power, struggle and effort.

What I think God would like you to hear is a partnership, an invitation, a millimetre and the dance.

Richard Foster writes this.

Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the deeply ingrained habits of sin.
The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.
The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. Richard Foster

In my new series, I will be exploring some of the ‘little by little’ dance exercises that God uses for the inside job of change.

Want to join me on the dance floor?

Quotes to ponder on.

  • We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners all our life! Thomas Merton Contemplative Prayer
  • We … want to make it quite clear that we cannot free and purify our own heart by exerting our own will. Heini Arnold Freedom from Sinful Thoughts 
  • God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we are placed where he can bless us. Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline

Questions to answer

  1. What is your immediate response to the words ‘Spiritual Disciplines, Exercises, Habits’?
  2. How does the idea of ‘Little by little’ offer hope in the journey into Mental Health?
  3. What ‘Little by Little’ spiritual exercises have helped your mental health?

Barry Pearman

Image: cc Gabby Orcutt

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