Ortberg: I grew up in the church like you did, and I think often people who were held up as models of spiritual maturity were people I didn’t want to be like. They were severe, judgmental; and there is a part of me that thinks, if all of life is spiritual formation, then all I should do is read the Bible. I shouldn’t go to any more fun movies. I’m afraid I’m going to be cut off from what is human and earthy and full of joy and have to do stuff that is really dull and is going to kill my spirit.


Crabb: Isn’t part of that because we make the distinction between sacred and secular and just assume that if we are not doing explicitly sacred things by our culture’s definition, then we are involved in non-kingdom stuff, going to a movie or playing tennis or something?


Willard: I think one of the things that make this a scary topic is the sense that what forms you is something you think you can never change. For example, maybe you are stuck in a job and suddenly realize your work setting is doing a lot to form your spirit. Suppose you are working as a lawyer, and there is all that pressure to get in those billable hours. All this pressure you have really does shape your spirit. And if you are stuck with this secular/sacred thing, then you are stuck with thinking there is nothing you can do about the very things that will shape your mind.


Crabb: So the only spiritual time you have is when you are sitting in church on Sunday morning and feeling spiritual for an hour.


Ortberg: And the scary part about that is, I think a lot of people who work in an office think only people who work in churches or monasteries or convents are really spiritual. I’m very aware of the fact that I work there, and working in a church does not produce rivers of living water. Not by a long shot....


The Role of Disappointment


Ortberg: Dallas, you’ve talked about the importance of dissatisfaction in spiritual life. And one of the things that give motivation to seek the kingdom is dissatisfaction with life outside of it. I had been a Christian for a long time, but finally reached the point where I was able to honestly say, I don’t think I’m changing. I think I’m struggling to have a quiet time on a regular basis, and I’m avoiding the same types of sins that Baptists avoid. But am I becoming a different type of person, a more joyful person? More humorous and sensible and strong? No.


Crabb: Would you be willing to share the specifics about what created the disappointment that led to a healthy approach to spiritual formation?


Ortberg: Well, for a long time [dissatisfaction] led primarily to a sense of disappointment and stagnation and guilt. Disappointment because I felt that I had invested my whole life in this thing.


Crabb: And this was after being a Christian for a number of years?