Those saints which are most like Jesus are the ones that have learned to walk with Him through all of life. They are secure in God’s love, they persevere in faith and are sustained by a strong hope. Helen Cepero, spiritual director and adjunct professor at North Park Seminary and Multnomah School of the Bible writes a rich meditation on the pathways to God. Christ-Shaped Character: Choosing Love, Faith and Hope shares the story of Cepero’s faith journey and the practices which have nurtured her spirit, as well as those to whom she has ministered with. But this is not a cookie-cutter approach to Christian spirituality. Cepero eschews formulas and detailed road maps. Instead she shares pieces of her own narrative and invites us to reflect on our own pathways to God.
In Christian theology, Faith, Hope and Love are called the theological virtues and are explored in much of the literature on Christian character formation (they come out of 1 Cor. 13:13). These virtues form the outline of Cepero’s book (here Love, Faith and Hope) and frame her reflections on the spiritual Life. Each section is comprised of three chapters. Part one, ‘Choosing Love,’ explores our identity as God’s beloved, and the practice of hospitality and forgiveness. As we cultivate our awareness of God and his love for us, this frees us up to welcome others and forgive just as we ourselves are forgiven and welcomed. Part two, ‘Choosing Faith’ helps us to cultivate our friendship with Jesus, embrace our vulnerabilities, and live life with integrity. Part three, ‘Choosing Hope,’ shows us how to cultivate attentiveness to God (through Sabbath), our ability to see God’s blessing in us and to trust God with our whole beings as we live improvisationally. Cepero is a Spiritual director and here, she helps us train our spiritual senses on where God is at work in our lives.
Cepero weaves together personal stories from her life and ministry with suggested spiritual practices, buried in the middle of each chapter rather than tagged on at the end. She is a perceptive writer on the spiritual life and quite the story teller. She begins her book by describing watching her ten-year-old daughter at a Beginners’ Band concert and then uses this an apt metaphor to describe how we begin our spiritual lives with the same sort of clumsy joy (as in art, so in life). The exercises she commends throughout her book include different types of prayer, meditation, Sabbath, various exercises in self examination, and Spiritual direction. These are rich reflections. well worth reading. I give this book an enthusiastic five stars and recommend it for anyone seeking to grow in intimacy with God: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Thank you to Intervarsity Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.