Our formation as followers of Jesus is ultimately our responsibility. The results of our choices, attitudes, actions, and relationships play a major part on whether we progress or regress in growing into the likeness of Jesus for the sake of our world. While that is true, our Christian formation is not something that takes place in isolation. There are clearly aspects to our Christian formation that are communal; we need others praying, advising, and encouraging us along the way. Another way to say it may be that sometimes there is no other way down the straight and narrow path except by catching a ride with one who knows the stretch we are stuck on.
I am not sure where I first heard or tripped over the idea that reading the experience, memoirs, advice, and direction of those who have gone before us in the faith is like hitchhiking, but it has been a helpful metaphor. Catching a ride with a sage can be a much-needed prescription for many of us who feel forgotten on the side of the road or sidelined by frustration, confusion, or lack of motivation to keep going. Just like hitchhiking, though, we need to be careful not to get in any old car that stops to offer us a lift. Caution is needed, for not all offering spiritual aid and advice are dependable or helpful.
What follows are a couple devotional classics that have given reliable rides for those who stuck out their thumbs and hitched a ride.
- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
- John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul
- Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life
- Francois Fenelon, Christian Perfection (out of print)
- William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
Have you gotten a ride from one who has gone before?
What have been the devotional classics that have assisted you in making it further down the road?
[Photo credit: melynaguona]