In his lectures on preaching delivered to students at Yale in 1912, John Henry Jowett asked how ministers were to avoid the perils of their calling. He answered: “By studious and reverent regard to the supreme commonplaces of the spiritual life. We must assiduously attend to the culture of our souls.”
This seems to me to express the essence of spiritual practice. It is the effort we make to “attend to the culture of our souls.” What is equally striking about Jowett’s answer is its emphasis on what he calls “the supreme commonplaces of the spiritual life.” We are enamored of the novel and the exotic, when the real crucible of spiritual formation is usually found in the mundane.
According to Jowett, attention to the culture of our souls requires solitude: “In the midst of our fussy, restless activities, in all the multitudinous trifles which, like a cloud of dust, threaten to choke our souls, the minister must fence off his quiet and secluded hours, and suffer no interference or obtrusion.”
This is hard to do, living as we do in an age which equates busyness with effectiveness. “Gentlemen, we are not always doing the most business when we seem to be most busy” Jowett warns. “We may think we are truly busy when we are really only restless, and a little studied retirement would greatly enrich our returns.”
Perhaps the most productive decision you make today could be to engage in “a little studied retirement.” You might start by turning off the little sound on your computer that alerted you to this new post.