brian j plachta
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How to Move Beyond Grade School Spirituality
by brian j plachta on December 14th, 2019

Do you remember the “Jesus Loves Me”  song?

“Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong.”

That song, along with several others we learned as kids, laid the foundation for believing in ourselves and the love of a Higher Power. It was grade school spirituality that worked—it taught us God is love.

But as we matured, grade school spirituality wasn’t enough. It might have even failed us. The schoolyard bully told us we were stupid. He or she challenged and brawled with us.

Then we became adults and ran into toxic people who projected their wounds upon us, blaming us for their unhappiness and trying to control our lives so they could protect their hearts.

We tried to forgive, but our hearts struggled. And we forgot the words of “Jesus Loves Me.”

Unless we continue moving from grade school spirituality to high school and adult spirituality, we get lost in the world. We might even become the toxic people who shame others.

We have to find a mature spirituality, a way to grow beyond the simple words and concepts we learned as children. Otherwise, we lose inner peace and balance. We might flunk life.


Years ago, a wise mentor invited me to read books written by saints and other spiritual masters who discovered a pathway to mature spirituality. I noted how each spiritual giant–Jesus, St. Benedict, St. Francis, Julian of Norwich, St. Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther, and others–shared four common practices that shaped their lives:

•Solitude. They took time daily to be alone with God–to meditate and listen with their hearts and souls.

•Spiritual Reading. They studied the Scriptures and the work of other spiritual teachers to learn wisdom.

•Community. They surrounded themselves with people who inspired them to grow.

•Contemplative Action. They discovered their unique talents and gifts, and used them to make the world a better place.


If these practices worked for them, I pondered, maybe they’d work for me. Perhaps they might be a lifestyle, a template for finding inner peace and wholeness. These concepts intrigued me so much I’m writing a book and creating workshops around them. I’ve also continued looking to other modern writers to discover their wisdom and insight.

One writer is Robert Thiefels. He wrote Standing in the Midst of Grace, a book that captures the importance of continuing to grow spiritually. He says it’s an on-going process. It takes inner work and study to move beyond grade school spirituality. (Check out his book by clicking this link: https://carriedacrossthesky.com/book).

Thiefels says, whether we realize it or not, God—our Source—is always a generous and unconditionally loving God. Thiefels writes, “Strange as it may seem at first, God has faith in us. And as hard as it may be for us to believe, God never judges us. In fact, in every moment we are being loved into greater being. It’s God’s love that transforms us.”

As Thiefels puts it, “We evolve through deeper levels of awareness of ourselves and God when we take the steps to grow.” We learn how to listen to the voice of Wisdom as it speaks to us in daily meditation. Through spiritual reading, we seek those spiritual giants that nurture our awakening hearts. These writers become our mentors. We also reach out to those further on the spiritual path, because to grow, we need spiritual community—people who nudge and inspire us.

As we deepen our relationship with our Creator, God showers us with guidance and wisdom so we live in love—what Theifels calls “Christ Consciousness”—literally putting on the mind and heart of Christ.

This deeper lens of Christ consciousness—of seeing ourselves, others, and the world as God does—draws us into the ongoing process of opening our eyes and hearts to discern the movement of the Spirit in our lives and in the world.

One of my favorite passages in Thiefels’ book is this:

We all stand in the midst of grace, whether or not we are conscious of its very real presence…..We are patterned in God’s image and the trajectory of all transformation is to become God’s likeness. Strange as this may seem, in our response to God’s love, we are becoming what we already are, but as yet do not realize.”

Thiefels’ book is a masterpiece. For those seeking to grow, I invite you to read it. It’s one tool you might consider this Advent as you prepare your hearts to celebrate the gift of Christ—and discover how to move beyond grade school spirituality.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net







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2 Comments

Clyde Richardson - December 14th, 2019 at 8:52 PM
Great stuff Brian! I have to read Standing in the Midst of Grace. Oh, how we need to be reminded of the soul%u2019s need for the 4 commonalities you noted in our spiritual giants.
brian plachta - December 20th, 2019 at 12:39 PM
Awesome Clyde! Have a blessed Christmas.
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