“You are not the boss of me! You don’t even belong to our family!”
I stepped back and took a deep breath. The admonition that poured from the lips of the stringy, little, 10-year-old redhead in front of me bounced off the walls and floor – every surface, really – of the kitchen, but she was exactly right. I couldn’t argue with truth, could I? Yet, I sure wanted to. The temptation to speak words that I would later regret passed as I swallowed and unclenched my jaw. I was caring for the daughter of my best friend for the weekend. “That sounds like fun,” I thought, “I love kids!” Ha! However, the key was to remember that I wasn’t 10 myself anymore, and there was some responsibility and expectation to be the grown up in this scenario!
As off-putting as her words were, something stuck, and I kept turning them over in my mind. I try so hard to be the boss of myself, which leads to ongoing challenges! When I am uncertain about actions to take, or positions to hold, I often press harder. Almost as though the force I apply will camouflage my inner uncertainty and help me feel better about my quandary. At least I’m doing something, goes the logic.
It is classic human behavior, that we use our social templates for the spiritual life. It’s all we know, right? As we are made in God’s image, we often imagine that what works for humans, must work for God. Jesus, however, becomes the best example, the source and model of every authentic human relationship with the Divine. The need to be the boss of our relationship with God, and to make life decisions on our own, can tie us into knots and get us into deep water and, like those tricky rip-tides, we won’t even know we’re getting sucked out to sea. The funny thing is God makes every effort to tell us that ‘being the boss’ of ourselves is not necessary! God relieves us from that stressful responsibility. Enter one of the most intimate gifts God ever gives us; enter the Holy Spirit.
Ignatius wrote in his diary, ‘…the Father gave me his Spirit to reason and discern, even though I had already spoken of the matter as something finished.’ -10. H
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”, Paul tells us (2 Cor 3: 17). By the outpouring of his Spirit, the risen Jesus creates the vital space where human freedom is fully realized. The burden of bias, implicit in every discernment, is lifted by a deep reliance on this dynamic Spirit of God. It is the invitation to be animated by the very essence of God! ‘The Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God, is at the same time the light that illumines our conscience and is the source of our true freedom (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 36).’
This Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God, already knows how to offer us the most vibrant life there is. This life is seamlessly reflective of the life that animates God – sourced, as they are, by the same Spirit. Thus, the burden of discernment is transferred from our shoulders to the expansiveness of the Divine. The freedom of my deeper yes is made from a place of inner confidence that God will choose the time to fan those necessary decisions into flame within me. The invitation here is, can I surrender the desire for a spiritual corner office and follow the Leader?
Ignatius was referred to by his confidant, Fr. Jerome Nadal, as a ‘contemplative person even while he was in action.’ This was due to Ignatius’ ability to weave reliance on the Holy Spirit into all of his daily responsibilities. Father Warren Sazama, SJ writes, “Discernment of spirits takes us on an exciting adventure. When we give up control and take risks to follow God’s lead not knowing where we will end up, with the attitudes of openness, generosity, and inner freedom recommended by Ignatius, life is a lot more fun and exciting than when we try to control everything ourselves.”
Every morning, when dedicating the day to Love, I ask for that grace. Help me to cede the illusion of control to you, O gracious God, and to freely commit my entire self to the mystery of your guiding Spirit. For me, there is the aching need to pray this every day, for the tendency to want to take back the lead is a strong one. The act of faith by which we make a daily wholehearted decision for God, allows us to abandon ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit and becomes the highest expression and experience of freedom. What an amazing Spirit we follow!
- Take it to prayer: II Corinthians 3: 2 – 5, 13 – 18
- Find inspiration through Imaginative Prayer with Stephanie Clouatre-Davis on Becky’s Sound Cloud by reflecting on the Call of Samuel to follow the promptings of God’s Spirit.
- Have you ever felt like time has been split, into a ‘before’ and ‘after?’ Join Kathy Powell on Becky’s Sound Cloud in an Examen for a Day of Crisis when your need for the freedom of the Holy Spirit is immediate and real.
- Sometimes our greatest freedom to hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit is by walking outside. Take the Spirit with you as you head outdoors through this reflection by Pray As You Go.
- Enjoy this short video where senior Jesuit wisdom figures articulate how they see the Holy Spirit alive today and over the course of their lives.
- Vinita Hampton Wright shares about the freedom that comes with authentic discernment here.
Photo by Jehyum Sung on unsplash.com