173 – Abstinence and Engagement – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

As I have continued to think about passivity (and activity) in our Christian walk and practices, I remembered some words of Dallas Willard I shared many months ago on “abstinence and engagement.”

He identifies the disciplines of abstinence as solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice, and watching; and the disciplines of engagement as study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission.

He writes,

“In the disciplines of abstinence, we abstain to some degree and for some time from the satisfaction of what we generally regard as normal and legitimate desires…. By the carefully adapted arrangement of our circumstances and behavior, the spiritual disciplines will bring these basic desires into their proper coordination and subordination within the economy of the life in his Kingdom….. The disciplines of abstinence must be counterbalanced and supplemented by the disciplines of engagement.  Abstinence and engagement are the outbreathing and inbreathing of our spiritual lives, and we require disciplines for both movements.  Roughly speaking, the disciplines of abstinence counteract the sins of commission and the disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission.  Life … does not derive its power of growth and development from withdrawal but from action – and engagement. Abstinence, then, makes way for engagement….  If the places in our souls that are be indwelt by God and his service are occupied by food, sex, and society, we die and languish for lack of God and right relation to his creatures.  A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagements so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God.”  (from The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, pp 159 – 176.)

So “abstinence … makes way for engagement.

Does that offer any parallel that might help us think of “passivity” as making way for something else?

Where might a Spirit breathed passivity lead you today?



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