Spiritual Formation with Nancy Kane, Part One

This week, Dan is joined by “a gem of a human being and deeply respected colleague,” Nancy Kane, to talk about her work teaching spiritual formation. Nancy is an Associate Professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and Program Developer of Moody’s Christian Spiritual Formation Certificate Program. She started teaching about spiritual formation more than 10 years ago, after noticing that many students were completing Bible school while, at least privately, wondering if they even believed in God anymore. They had lots of information, knew how to exegete a passage, but did not really know if God would meet them in their deepest needs.

Nancy: “Spiritual formation at its core is this process we engage in with Christ, in which he changes us, he forms us. We’re always being spiritually formed, whether we’re watching a movie or talking with someone, but Christian spiritual formation is this intentionality of entering a process with Christ whereby our hearts are changed.”

Nancy eventually began to feel a similar burden not just for college students, but for the larger Church—particularly those who faithfully tithe and attend church, but lack the passion and exuberance of living out their faith, or as Nancy calls it, “the delirious joy that I think comes when Jesus talks about the hidden treasure of the kingdom of God.” Dan shares that when he hears Nancy talk about this he feels as if he has found a fellow traveler, someone whose work is deeply in accord with what we do here at The Allender Center.

Dan: “I don’t know a lot of people who seem to know joy. […] Many of us live well without a lot of joy.”

Nancy: “ And God is constantly knocking on the doors of our souls saying, ‘Oh, there’s so much more. There’s so much more. You don’t have to live this limited, burdensome, hard life that you thought was the way it’s supposed to be.”

Many of us have lived with this assumption that if we read Scripture, tithe faithfully, engage the activities of the Church—if we live, in general, as “good people”—then we know what it means to follow Christ. Nancy and Dan, however, argue that doing right is not enough; a heart that has been transformed by the Gospel will be more alive to unbridled joy, and more attuned to grief and pain, than is possible through a mere checklist of activities.

Dan: “You have to help people weed out that which is green and flowering, but not really fruit-giving. There are weeds that often look like good plants.”

Nancy: “I need to see that all is not well in my soul. I need to pray for the courage to enter the places where I have not been loved well, where I’ve experienced trauma.”

At its core, the journey of spiritual formation connects us to those parts of ourselves that cannot believe God smiles upon us tenderly—those parts of us that are governed by shame and contempt, and that try to hide from the relentless love of God. Dan and Nancy reflect on the ways that our imagination for love is skewed and marred by those who have loved us imperfectly—especially our earliest images of love, those primary attachment figures who so often shape our image of God.

Nancy: “The way with Christ is this constant movement of my soul toward recognizing daily what I’m being forgiven from, what I’m being redeemed from, and then looking into his face and seeing that he still loves me. […] I think the greatest miracle is to really believe that you are loved.”

Next week, Nancy will share more about the Christian Spiritual Formation Certificate Program, and about the roadblocks that keep us from engaging the deep, death-unto-life work of spiritual formation.