Does spiritual development depend on my effort? A reflection on the interplay of God's will and ours.

The people with whom I grew up talked a lot about "breaking the will." The task of every devout parent was to "break the will" of the child. I don't remember ever hearing it used by adults on one another, but that may be a more or less willful defect in my memory.

The assumption underlying this linchpin in the program for Christian development in our church was, apparently, that the will, especially a child's will, is contrary to God's will. A broken will left one open to the free play of God's will.

Fifty years later, I recall my now-grown-up friends who were enrolled in this school of childhood spirituality and along with me got their wills broken with regularity. By my observations, we all seem to have passed through the decades every bit as pigheaded and stiff-necked as any of our uncircumcised Philistine chums who never went to church, or at least not to churches that specialized in breaking the wills of little kids. Apparently a broken will mends ...

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