When it comes to growing in-depth in one’s spiritual life, Richard Foster is one of the first authors to whom you should turn. Founder of Renovare in Denver, Colorado and author of many books --- including the classic CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE: The Path to Spiritual Growth --- he has long been known for challenging followers of Jesus to reflect more of God in every area of their life.
In his latest book, Foster teams up with Gayle D. Beebe, president of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, on a project that has taken three years to develop and write. LONGING FOR GOD: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion, is well worth the wait. The book is based on the idea that throughout history, both individuals and societies have taken different paths to become alive to God. Once these spiritual awakenings occur, a hunger for God’s habitual presence often lingers. So how do we encounter God’s love in a way that stirs up the spiritual longings inside of us? Foster and Beebe believe there is no cookie cutter answer. Rather, our own capacity to receive and respond to God’s love needs to be cultivated. We must be intentional about Christian spiritual formation.
They observe: “Today there is a growing awareness, reflected in an important body of literature, that we have destroyed the main centers of meaning and value to such an extent that we are left with few resources to cultivate and sustain our common life. At the same time a significant chorus of writers is seeking to recover the rich spiritual resources that once guided us morally, sustained us spiritually and satisfied our deep longing for God.”
LONGING FOR GOD explores the seven primary paths to God that have developed throughout Christian history: right ordering of our love for God, journeying with God, recovering knowledge of God lost in the Fall, intimacy with Jesus, right ordering of our experiences with God, action and contemplation, as well as divine ascent. Each of the seven sections highlights three or four spiritual writers who illuminate this path of the Christian life. For example, in right ordering of our love for God, the lives and teachings of Origen of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Blaise Pascal are all explored. While the authors uncover the principles of each person’s journey and teachings, they do it in a quick but thoughtful way. As a result, the material throughout the book is not only accessible but also enjoyable.
Along the way readers will come across Christian classics that they may not have heard about, or aspects of writers and thinkers of which they were unaware. Some of the familiar names, including Francis of Assisi, John Wesley and Teresa of Avila, are still given a fresh look and provide rich insights. As a result, the book is part devotional, part lesson in church history, and part challenge for deeper spiritual growth. Reading the pages is a rich reminder that we are not alone in our journeys of spiritual formation --- God is with us, and many have gone before us.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on March 12, 2009