My Spiritual Journey
I’ve never considered myself a leader. I’m just a sojourner, on my way home.
My parents were Salvation Army officers. Except for about a year, the Army has always been my church. I knew its programs and much of its business fairly well. So when the Lord called me to officership, I was sure I could do a good job.
What I was unsure of, for a long time, were my spiritual qualifications. I thought, Surely, two years of Training will take care of that!
However, I was disappointed. As new lieutenants during our first officer’s retreat, I asked my husband, “When will we get to the place where we don’t struggle to feel like we have it together spiritually?” He has always been wiser than me, and he just quirked his eyebrow and said, “I don’t think that will happen in this life.”
I was looking for that real, living relationship with the Lord. For most of my young life, I lived on my parents’ faith. Even after I took a step of faith on my own behalf, I was still challenged to have a real relationship with Christ.
One time along the way, I poured out my troubles and trials to a Christian counselor. He said, “I think you need to draw closer to the Lord. You are missing the Lord.” These were insightful words, but I really didn’t understand them at the time. The counselor led me through some exercises designed to visualize being with Christ. Out of this experience, I saw Jesus as my big Brother, listening to me pour out my heart. But rather than offer advice, He offered peace.
Early in my officership, I prayed I would hunger and thirst for righteousness. I joined a Bible study fellowship. This discipline helped me through many trials. God’s Word has a wonderful way of speaking to me in my present circumstances and even though I’ve repeated some studies several times, each time I receive new insight according to what’s happening in my life.
For 25 years I worked hard only “doing” the most good, until I crashed spiritually.
When I arrived at my present appointment 5 years ago, I also came to the realization that I was tired of trying to earn the approval of the Lord through my work as an officer. I felt the Lord saying, “Good. You’re finally at a place where I can show you ‘what is better’” (Luke 10:42).
Colonels Janice and Steve Howard, then my divisional leaders, asked me to become the spiritual life development secretary in the Northeastern Ohio Division (NEOSA). Again, I didn’t think I had the spiritual qualifications for such an appointment, but the Lord made it clear I needed to accept it.
Major Lauren Hodgson later shared with me the book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, by Ruth Haley Barton. It spoke to my heart. Ten months later, I conducted my first retreat and found that the Lord who began a good work in me was being faithful to continue it on to completion.
In preparation, I read Invitation to a Journey by Robert Mulholland. His definition of spiritual formation arrested me: “Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” The last clause got to me.
It was a relief to be told that I wasn’t just doing this for me, but for the sake of others. That realization became an even greater motivation to grow and to show other people the beauty of intentional spiritual formation.
At the retreat, we named a desire of our heart. Mine is to please God. Like a child pleasing her father, I want to please God. I want His smile of approval. I want Him to notice me and be happy with me. This helps to balance my being and doing. He’s pleased with me when I am with Him, believe in Him, and obey Him rather than when I simply do for Him.
When I got back home, I became so busy with Christmas, I forgot the things I’d learned. But when I read my journal, I remembered what had been so important to me. I realized God was still doing a work in me, reminding me that I find peace and rest in His pleasure.
Barton writes, “Truly, the best thing any of us have to bring to leadership is our own transforming selves.” I found this liberating and convicting and wrote this prayer in my journal:
My prayer is to change, O God,
Not out of despair of self, (though
I am full of despair over myself),
But for love of You,
For the self I long to become
Before I simply waste away
(because I feel I can’t stand the stress and pressure I am under).
I’m still on a journey, but I’m content. I know where I’m going now; I’m a daughter of the King, finding my way home. He loves me, and I do things for Him because I love to please Him. I still don’t think of myself as a leader, but if I can share His love, and encourage people on the path of spiritual formation, I will consider myself blessed.
by Major Kathleen Muir