No one stays the same. The circumstances of life, the education we receive, and the choices that we make all have a part in forming our character, our beliefs, and our hearts. There is nothing that we can do to stop that reality. Each day we are experiencing spiritual formation.
In any case, we may be sure of this: the formation and, later, transformation of the inner life of man, from which our outer existence flows, is an inescapable human problem. Spiritual formation, without regard to any specifically religious context or tradition, is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite “form” or character. It is a process that happens to everyone. The most despicable as well as the most admirable of persons have had a spiritual formation. Terrorists as well as saints are the outcome of spiritual formation. Their spirits or hearts have been formed. Period.
Dallas Willard, The Renovation of the Heart, p. 19
The good news in this reality is that we can choose what will guide our formation. We do not need to be left at the mercies of life's circumstances and the philosophies of this world. Spiritual formation will happen to us, but that does not mean we have to be passive. We can make choices that will guide the direction of our spiritual formation.
This means the first step in spiritual formation is choosing those things that will influence our hearts and minds. We have to decide what we want to shape our character and our identity.
Followers of Jesus have this path cut out for us. We do not have to blaze a new trail, rather we can look back and see those influences that have shaped people of faith for centuries. These influences include spiritual disciplines, participation in Christian community, sacrificial service to other people, and the daily surrender to God. As we give ourselves away to God, the Holy Spirit guides us down the path of spiritual formation.
Spiritual formation will happen in our lives. We have to choose whether we will be intentional or passive about the formation that occurs. It is essential for followers of Jesus to be intentional about the process of spiritual formation, because we want our lives to look like the life of Jesus. That doesn't happen by accident.