This article was just published by Worship Leader Magazine.
THE ELEMENTAL LIFE: Living Grounded, Inspired, Empowered and Communal Lives
Dan Wilt, M.Min.
For over 20 years I have had the privilege of walking side by side in ministry with fellow worship leaders, artists, and creative influencers around the world. Over the course of these decades, I have watched many leaders’ souls expand to a place of great spiritual depth and breadth. Others, however, have seemed to shrink in spirit-barely maintaining a semblance of spiritual vitality as they grow older.
Four Elements of The Spiritual Life
Spiritual formation is about allowing Christ to develop our whole person, our interior and exterior life, as he shapes us into his likeness through the unique stories of our lifetime. It is our approach to spiritual formation that determines how we will age as disciples, expanding in spiritual richness or shrinking in spiritual stagnation.
We will look at four unique elements in the spiritual life, using creational imagery in the best traditions of ancient Celtic Christian spirituality. Each element is intended to be a lens through which we can evaluate our overall spiritual progress toward the likeness of Christ-and a robust devotional future.
Earth: A Grounded Life
“While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him.”
Mark 1:35-37a (The Message)
When I was a young boy growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, I first learned the lesson of gravity. I jumped off the very top of a set of monkey bars like a superhero launching from a skyscraper-all to impress a little neighbor girl. When I landed on my chest with a horrid “thud,” wheezing and crying for Lois Lane’s help, I understood the unyielding nature of the earth.
Earth speaks of the grounded life. This is a life deeply rooted in nurturing, stabilizing values that do not change-values like faith, family, and character.
Earth speaks of life elements like faith, and a spirituality fueled by the regular study of the Scriptures and habitual conversation with God in prayer.
Earth speaks of life elements like family, and our need to tend to our immediate flesh and blood relationships with generosity in attentiveness, time, and tenderness.
Earth speaks of life elements like character, and welcoming the blossoming of our soul through events that evoke integrity, honesty, perseverance, courage, faithfulness, goodness, and love.
Are you living in the element of earth-tending to those arenas of life that ground you?
Wind: An Inspired Life
“… Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone; don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.’”
Matthew 19:13-14 (The Message)
One of my most treasured mentors and friends, the late Bob Horvath, was passionate about sailing. I would watch him thrust the thick canvas of his beloved boat into the sky to catch the slightest breezes God might send his way. Through years of working with his equipment, Bob knew just how to maneuver his sails to go in exactly the direction he wanted to go.
Wind speaks of the inspired life. This is a life that raises its sails with the sole intent of catching every joyful wind sent our way.
Wind speaks of life elements like finding heroes and allowing them to call us forward in skill, in passion, in faith-to stimulate our desire to be better at what we do than we already are.
Wind speaks of life elements like dreams, and giving ample room for the hopes and desires within us to be tested, matured, and reshaped along our life journey.
Wind speaks of life elements like art and beauty, gardening, concerts, inspiring books, good food, energizing conversations and passionate vocational (or avocational) work.
Are you living in the element of wind-tending to those arenas of life that inspire you?
Fire: An Empowered Life
Jesus’ refusal was curt: ‘Beat it, Satan!’ He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.’”
Matthew 4:8-10 (The Message)
I have interacted with many friends around the world who, like me, have endured lifelong battles with severe depression. On occasion I have had the privilege of watching some lives, in a season of prayer, mission or encouragement, come back from the dead. They have burst through their next chrysalis to embrace a colorful, resurrected life on the other side.
Fire speaks of the empowered life. This is a life that is spiritually motivated, prayerfully covered, and actively engaged with God’s new creation mission in the world he so loves.
Fire speaks of life elements like ongoing personal development in areas of our passion and skills. It speaks of study, risk, and placing ourselves in situations where a wild adventure with God is our only option.
Fire speaks of life elements like a prayer circle of committed friends who we have asked to pray for us with consistency and a burning desire for our highest impact to be felt in the world.
Fire speaks of life elements like missional community activities that put us in a position to be someone’s humble hero, someone’s louder voice, or someone’s undying supporter.
Are you living in the element of fire-tending to those arenas of life that empower you?
Water: A Communal Life
“You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”
John 15:11 (The Message)
I, like you, love fly fishing. One of my favorite summer pastimes is to stand in a river with a friend far downstream, casting my line into placid pools where fish are resting. In the river and its pools, one sees the playful nature of water. This unruly combination of hydrogen and oxygen not only hydrates and cools-it also runs to the lowest places in need of its revitalizing touch.
Water speaks of the communal life. This is a life that is invested in authentic friendships, accountable communities, and key life-to-life mentoring partnerships.
Water speaks of life elements like connecting with others in intentional, mutually encouraging, interdependent community gatherings.
Water speaks of life elements like spiritual friendships, painstakingly maintained over the course of decades and nurtured on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Water speaks of life elements like mutual service, in which we share the labor in the lives of those around us, running to their lowest places in times of need and allowing them to run to the lowest places in ours.
Are you living in the element of water-tending to those arenas of life that establish you in community?
Moving in the Elements
Walking with Christ as grounded, inspired, empowered, and communal people, we begin to find ourselves living “in our element,” serving the common good of others from the center of who God so artfully designed us to be (1 Cor. 12:7).
Move in the elements with grace, and know that he will complete the new creation work he began in you.