As soon as the toxic words left my lips, heat spread from my chest to my ear tips. The conversation continued to unravel and I wondered, who was this person (me), so wound up, self-important, and rude to the person receiving my tirade? It took a couple of hours for me to apologize. Even then I admit the apology was half-hearted. The other half wanted to justify my inappropriate reaction as righteous. As these halves wrestled I asked myself, what is really going on? What is stirring under the surface that I need to see?
Always able to bring something good from calamity, the Holy Spirit was creating an opening for me to make some choices. Often we are surprised to realize that what we believe about a situation, another person, oneself is different from what we thought. Like others before me, the Holy Spirit used this opportunity to get my attention, show me new truths, and lead me to discern where to go from here.
The Holy Spirit has a history of using crisis moments to inspire new vision, like Paul on the way to Damascus. Paul was blinded by his single-minded pursuit to keep his community of faith on track following The Law when suddenly he heard a voice that begged, why are you persecuting me? Over the next three days Jesus helped him to see those following His Way differently. Paul regained his sight through the hands of Ananais, and filled with the Holy Spirit, was able to decide what to do next with his new awareness.
On the other hand, from St. Ignatius we learn that another life changing illumination more gentle than his famed “cannonball moment” unfolded next to a river:
One day he went to the Church of St. Paul, situated about a mile from Manresa. Near the road is a stream, on the bank of which he sat, and gazed at the deep waters flowing by. While seated there, the eyes of his soul were opened. He did not have any special vision, but his mind was enlightened on many subjects, spiritual and intellectual. So clear was this knowledge that from that day everything appeared to him in a new light. From that day he seemed to be quite another man, and possessed of a new intellect.
Through prayer in the weeks following my meltdown, I perceived an undercurrent of restlessness. I was humbled to see that innocent bystanders were on the receiving end of suppressed emotions. I realized that work, once easy, was becoming more difficult. While managing to honor commitments, I saw that behind the scenes I alternated between procrastination and autopilot. I also noticed that I became energized when invitations to participate in new projects arrived. Thoughtful companions offered honest feedback and encouragement as I discerned and ultimately made some new choices.
Jesus told his disciples, “The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you.” (John 14:26). Whether our eyes are suddenly opened through another’s hands or insight slowly dawns, there comes a point where we can’t unsee the need to discern what’s next. We can proceed with assurance that God has provided interior knowledge to make a good decision.
When surprised by a turn of events, or realize a holy restlessness is beginning to stir, invite the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, enlightening your mind and heart. God said to Moses (Ex 33:18-23), you’ll recognize me, my goodness, and my glory, not by looking me in the face, but in noticing what happened as I passed by. What goodness does God want to reveal as you become ready to discern?
- “Today the Lord invites us to assume an attitude of humble listening and docile waiting, because the grace of God often presents itself to us in surprising ways, which don’t line up with our expectations.” Pope Francis, Angelus address, July 8, 2018
- Prayerfully listen to Open My Eyes by Jesse Manibusan as you ponder…
- Fr. Michael Casey on the conversion of St. Paul (Give Us This Day, May 6, 2022):
- Our lives may be less dramatic [than St. Paul’s], but we would be wise to consider whether God is not also speaking to us in those moments when reality is different from what we had expected. We are being tasked to cast our eyes in a different direction, open to the possibility that we are being asked to change course. And we can’t expect to comprehend all that is involved in this challenge. Some of its meaning may emerge in time. Much of it remains a mystery. We will never understand it by thinking about it; paradoxically it is only by giving our assent that it begins to make sense. Saying “yes“ gives us entrance to a world beyond our reasoning.
- Consider reading an older series on Restlessness here.
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