Even as a Protestant I have a favorite saint: St. Ignatius. He's the patron saint of awesomeness ... no, wait, of "finding God in all things."
To summarize, he believed God could be found in and through all circumstances and places and feelings. He found God after being stripped of his vanity, while bedridden for a good long time. And, perhaps oddly, he's one of the saints most known for validating the place of our desires and feelings in our spiritual growth.
You read that right: he believed our desires could lead us to God.
Now, what he didn't say (equally as important) was that we should follow and go to all ends to achieve our desires. He simply believed acknowledging them was the key to finding God in and through our desires and feelings.
In acknowledging what our heart longs for -- but what we may be consciously talking ourselves out of -- we're grounding ourselves in the present, the place God lives and communes with us. God has always been with us, and will continue to be with us. However, the place God meets us is in the now. And verbalizing what our heart longs for grounds us in the moment of now.
While it sounds easy, there's a reason humans are not notoriously good at staying in the present truth of their souls: it can be painful. Acknowledging what we want but don't yet have is uncomfortable, at best. And it often leads us to too quickly resolve our difficult circumstances with, "...but it'll be okay!" Yet, this uncomfortable, cranky, confused, scared, angry part of our heart is the part God wants. Not because he wants to put salt in the wound of our longing, but because this is the place God transforms us.
And this is what St. Ignatius teaches us -- God loves us in our pain and confusion. But we limit receiving the relief of his presence when we deny the painful places in our hearts and lives.
When we sit before him, laid bare like Job, he softens our heart over time, and tenderly dresses the wounds. We emerge from his presence changed, and at times more empowered to hold the tension of "I want, but don't have," trusting in his ultimate goodness; or aware of our anger and now with the conscious ability to choose our response, rather than reacting out of hidden feelings or motives.
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I'm excited to announce this fall we'll be offering our first visio divina workshop! We'll be reflecting on how images can form us spiritually, and experiencing it firsthand. I hope you'll join us! Feel free to invite a few friends, too.
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I hope to see your friendly faces there!