My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoy McLaren’s vulnerability within his writing – I get the sense that I’m listening to someone who’s still wrestling over things, like I am, and not someone who’s professing to have it all worked out.
My take away from this book was the permission McLaren’s stages brought to my own life and walk with God. The seasons were: Simplicity: The Season of Spiritual Awakening; Complexity: The Season of Spiritual Strengthening; Perplexity: The Season of Spiritual Survival; and Harmony: The Season of Spiritual Deepening. McLaren took twelve words to flesh out these seasons and attached the words to practices of prayer and meditation which I felt reverted back to an introspective examination of the self and gave alleviating permission to whichever stage you happen to be in and to just be there.
Those twelve words are: Here, Thanks, O; Sorry, Help, Please; When, No, Why; and Behold, Yes, [...].
The stages McLaren wrote about were the reason I picked up the book. They’re reminiscent of a few other things I’ve read by ancient church fathers and more recently by Adele Calhoon in her book, The Spiritual Discipline Handbook, where in an appendix she wrote about seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. McLaren’s autumn was Calhoon’s winter, but other than that, things were quite similar in terms of seasons.
I believe this book is good for introspective people but wonder if those who are less introspective would really get much out of it. I wonder if something more like Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline really fleshes out an understanding of spiritual attentiveness to the ways and person of God through intentional practices. Yet, Foster’s book lacks an overarching sense of spiritual season, which I think is very helpful. It attaches us to what St. John of the Cross wrote 500 years ago about the Dark Night of the Soul and such things and how they’re all for the shaping our our whole selves toward absolute grace filled dependence on God.
Now, my fault for the book is that I feel McLaren’s writing on the spiritual life, like many other books these days, seems to open a possibility of us working our spiritual life on our own with or without the Spirit of God propelling or filling us with spiritual life. Jesus and the Jesus Way themselves even seem optional by McLaren’s writing – which I doubt would be the case if I sat down and talked with him. …I wonder.
While I appreciate the mention of spiritual seasons and the words McLaren uses to flesh out those seasons, I’m left wondering at the end of the book what, in the author’s words, is a true and living spirituality and what does Jesus have to do with it?