An Arch of Holiness

Few secular books have stayed with me at the depth of Robert Quinn’s Deep Change. I first read it over 11 years ago and still find myself going back to it for insight. Quinn’s central thesis is simple. We face the choice between deep change or slow death. The heart of deep change lies not in getting others to change but rather in having the courage to change ourselves. He writes: “Empowered leaders are the only ones who can induce real change. They can forcefully communicate at a level beyond telling. By having the courage to change themselves, they model the behavior they are asking of others. Clearly understood by almost everyone, this message, based on integrity, is incredibly powerful. It builds trust and credibility and helps others confront the risk of empowering self” (Robert Quinn, Deep Change, pp. 48-49). Deep change is anchored in having the courage to change yourself. Now draw an arch to the original Methodist notion of holiness. The original Methodists, as with the original Christians, lived with an essence of both personal and social holiness which was profound, life-challenging and life-changing. When I entered ministry much of personal holiness was yoked with issues of alcohol consumption, smoking and sex. Calling for holiness in these areas is needed but that is hardly the sum or for that matter even the beginning of a personal holiness that is inextricably linked with social holiness. The Galatians fruits of the Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires" (Galatians 5:22-24) – formed the arch of deep change to a personal holiness that grew into a social holiness. In my own life this has led me into the questing journey to reclaim true personal holiness linked to social holiness through spiritual formation. A host of different spiritual guides have gently but firmly led me back into the connection with quiet time with God in prayer, listening, contemplation and scripture reading. It takes effort and surrender to move out of the tyranny of the urgent. The answer comes, so my guides have informed me, in quiet. My spiritual director commented recently, “A new form of burnt offering is our burned-out life.” Connecting that insight to the great biblical teaching that what God wants is the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart, he notes that God wants our quiet. This is powerful stuff for me as I reach into the mystery of personal holiness that involves deep change. One such arch of holiness runs from the insight of Quinn – change yourself – to the lives of the early Christians and early Methodists – living with a deep compelling spirit-filled personal integrity that naturally spilled over into social holiness (grace upon grace) – to recapturing quiet time with God in my life – leading me outward in deeper fruit bearing Christian living with both personal and social holiness. There is much to think, reflect, and pray about here.