In The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg encourages his readers to reflect on the nature of Christianity and the ability of belief in God to facilitate positive change and growth, revealing why and how transformation occurs. The book is unique for the modern outlook on a traditional spiritual path and related disciplines and talks about more than merely being a good Christian. Ortberg creates a roadmap for reaching true transformation beginning not with the individual expected to complete the path but rather with the one marking the journey’s end, Jesus Christ. The approach that the author takes speaks volumes of his perspective on life and belief.
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Ortberg suggests that to finish a race of transformation, it is imperative not to try harder but rather be consistent in encountering and practicing spiritual disciplines. Such practice is expected to strengthen one’s endurance that is imperative for completing the road of personal growth. Along the way, those who are on the path of transformation will pass essential signposts that allow them to deepen their belief, such as peace, kindness, joy, respect, and many others. Such an approach toward spiritual development and transformation presents religion in a way that is inviting positive perceptions and reflections on one’s life and the path that is being taken. Instead of presenting religion and belief as a practice of following a set of rules and restrictions, Ortberg looks at the flip side of the coin, showing his audience that spiritual improvement is far more fruitful and impactful on the lives of people.
The accessibility of the narrative and how the author presents the information is the greatest strength of the book. Because of this, the target audience for The Life You’ve Always Wanted is vast, with personal reflections and humorous anecdotes being understandable and digestible among readers of different educational backgrounds. The author intentionally and carefully avoids legalism while also underlining the importance of the
disciplines that he discusses. The most persuasive argument against legalism in the book is the statement that if spiritual growth can occur “without the practice of particular spiritual disciplines, then we should by all means skip them” (Ortberg 45). Therefore, the author encourages his audience to only engage in practices that will lift and improve them spiritually. Such practices may include servanthood, prayer, confession, joy, and others that will enrich the lives of people and encourage them to become more open to life through belief and spiritual enrichment.
The book is imperative for communicating the goal of transformation within spiritual life, with transformation being defined as the inward and real formation of the essential nature of human beings. The importance of the author’s message is that all of the spiritual disciplines are not indicators of people’s spiritual growth. Rather, the disciplines will provide essential training that would, in the end, enhance the ability of individuals to love. In my view, the author does a great job of showing that spiritual transformation is something that should be close and personal to every person, and there should not be any overt demonstrations of one’s beliefs and practices. The book is valuable for individuals on the path toward spiritual transformation for reaching the life that is worth living, life on the edge that would fill the ordinary world with new meanings, change, hope, and joy.
Ortberg, John. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. Walker Large Print Books, 2006.