Today’s Lectio Divina:
So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! Hebrews 6: 1-3 (MsgB)
Ignatian Truth #1: Ignatian spirituality is all about the Spiritual Exercise. Every person’s journey with God is unique, so any spiritual discipline we enter into with the intention of opening ourselves up to God is good. Adaptability with creativity is needed as each person journeys alongside Jesus.
Over the centuries, Christ-followers have experimented with countless ways in disciplining themselves in the things of Christ. Quite honestly, not all of these efforts have produced the healthiest fruit I’m sure the Master would like to see!
Some believe that a good Christian must become sober and sad, removing oneself from the pleasures of this world so that there’s no room for the flesh to interfere with the Spirit. Others have taken the opposite approach, going out into the world in order to do something good for Jesus, only to find that the flesh can indeed succumb to temptations that are far stronger than our faith can handle.
For Ignatius, he found that the closer he wanted to be to Jesus, the harder it was for him to achieve that goal on his own. Interestingly enough, Ignatius believed, like other Christ-followers before him, that the quieter and the more still he became, the more God’s Spirit did the good work of Christ in and through him. In other words, when it comes to drawing closer to the heart of God, less is more and more is less.
This should not be surprising to those who study the Scriptures. From Genesis to Revelation, we find this amazing invitation to quietness scattered along the way. Thus, in Ignatian spirituality, and as we go through the Spiritual Exercises, it’s so important to know our place in the pecking order of God.
Take Psalm 34, for example. Verse 8, in The Message translation, puts it this way…
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to Him.
Or, simpler still, what about Psalm 46, verse 10 (NIV)…
Be still, and know that I am God.
You see, it’s so vitally important for us to understand the role God plays in building relationship with His creation vs. the role we, His creation, play in return. As one friend of mine says it, “Marty, God always wants to remind you that He’s God…and you’re not!”
So, as you and I enter into the Ignatian Exercises, it’s important to know that it’s not our strong ability that will determine the success (or failure) of the entire process. In truth, the more we can relax, take a load off, and be still in God’s presence, the easier it will be for God’s good work to be accomplished in and through us.
Be still. Be quiet. Stop the chatter. Hold that thought.
Allow God to be God while you learn to rest in Him.
Take the time to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Allow the Master to do the work as you lean into His strength instead of yours.
One ancient author, Brother Lawrence, called this discipline of stillness and silence as “practicing the presence of God.” My wife, Sandy, who has been practicing this discipline in quietness longer than I have, reminds me that the old saying, “Practice makes perfect” is not actually the goal here. “Only God can make perfect, Marty,” Sandy reminds me, “your practice (of being still & quiet) makes permanent!”
Good words for those of us who feel we have to do things perfectly for God to be happy with us!
My prayer: Father God, I confess that much of my religious training has centered around me doing something first so that You would do something in return. Help me, as I enter into the Exercises, to remove my pressing need to ‘do’ so that I might simply be still, silent and ‘be.’ For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to consider: Henry Blackaby, in his excellent book, Experiencing God, states that for most of his Christian life his response to God could be described by the old saying, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” But as he drew closer to Jesus, better understanding the will of the Father, he moved his spirituality over to the expression, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Which line best describes my approach to my Christian faith? Am I willing to slow down long enough, being silent and still, so that I might better know God?
How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today?
Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.
If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!