Even though this book comes up short on the how-to’s of spiritual formation, it does a good job of provoking you to get off your butt and actually pursue it. However, you’ll probably want to do that long before you finish the book itself.
Robert L. Saucy. Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Formation. 344p., $21.99, Kregel Publications.
If you think I sound conflicted here, you’re right. This book’s heart is in the right place, and so are a lot of its words. It genuinely moved me to want to act—and then didn’t give me a lot to actually work with. But let’s start with some of that provoking stuff, because it’s well worth considering:
The picture of continually walking may be unpleasant and tiring to us…. We may have never thought of the Christian life in this way. But in reality, we may be practicing it by relegating our spiritual walk to well-defined religious activities…. The rest of our life—whatever else consumes our time—is not part of the journey. It’s a vacation. It doesn’t count.
Robert Saucy spends a lot of time addressing the problem of our “fat and hard” hearts. A lot of time. An important point he makes throughout, though, is that our minds determine much more of what’s in our hearts than we normally give it credit for. Indeed, “The point is that an emotion is always interpreted [by the mind] before it has any effect upon the person.” And thus, our minds need transforming.
Saucy does provide some ideas on ways to approach this—by meditating on God’s Word (especially via lectio divina) and community (which, I have to admit, is about the time I started mentally checking out, as we were already 200-plus pages in by the time this was even touched upon). But he spends a decidedly small amount of time on this, compared to the amount of time he spends telling us why it’s important. Any reader will be sold on the idea 100 pages before getting any kind of answer to the question, “OK, so how do I do it?” (And realistically, most readers were probably sold before even picking up this book.)
Granted, it’s almost all good content—well-presented and biblically solid. That said, I would’ve lost a bunch of the secondhand examples/illustrations here, for reasons that are by now obvious. For that matter, the dozens of sidebars here add pretty much nothing to the book, aside from length.
In fact, it feels very much like a visit to a wise old seminary professor, to learn the answers to some very specific questions regarding spiritual formation. He regales you with a depth of knowledge on the subject. You know he’s walked it himself. And yet, two hours later, you realize he has yet to answer your question. And that he probably won’t.
And so, you thank him for his time and his heart for Jesus, say “good day,” and move on.