Two Years Transforming; Forever Grateful

For the last two years, I traveled to a monastery outside of Chicago every three months for a three day retreat to tend to my soul. With a group of 70 others, as part of the Transforming Center, we practiced ancient spiritual practices and rhythms such as silence, solitude, centering prayer, lectio divina, confession, the daily office, and more. We traveled together down a road of spiritual transformation and it happened in this place.

For the last two years, I was fortunate to sit under the teaching of Ruth Haley Barton. I had one of her most well-known books, Sacred Rhythms, for about a decade. A mentor of mine had given it to me years before I entered ministry. I had never opened that book. A few years ago, though, I finally took it off my shelf….and donated it. I was going through a minimalism phase and thought I had no need for it.

Then, as part of this community, I had to re-buy, read it, confess to Ruth what I did with her book, and, of course, have her sign my new copy.

During these years, Ruth became my rabbi. We read her books, listened to her stories, studied her teachings, and practiced spiritual rhythms. I was honored to sit at her feet and follow in her footsteps.

It’s difficult to put into words what this experience has meant to me because it has radically altered my soul, mind, and life. For someone who was so eager to enter ministry and do work for God, I was shocked at how quickly I became burnt out and forgot to be with God. The Divine has become more real for me, present with me, and alive to me. It has truly been one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life and I am ever grateful for this community.

I have learned to be present to the One who is always present to me.

I have learned to be with God before doing for God as well as how to be in God for the world rather than in the world for God.

The best thing I can bring to my leadership, life, family, and work is my own spiritually transforming self.

Silence and solitude have become essential practices for spiritual health.

The Daily Office gives me a rhythm to commune with God throughout my day.

Centering Prayer and the Breath Prayer have settled my soul.

Spiritual transformation happens, not because I do anything, but because I open myself up to the God who transforms.

And I have learned that in returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength, for the Lord waits to be gracious to you.

If you follow the Christian tradition, perhaps as a leader of an organization or work in ministry, want to pursue seminary, yet feel as if the Christian faith isn’t working anymore, if you’re tired or worn out, if it seems as if God is distant, or if ministry is killing your soul, I encourage you to join a Transforming Community.

It has made me a better husband, father, friend, coworker, and neighbor. It has made me a better human. It has healed my soul. God will use it to change your life, too.

Nathan Albert