I cannot stress enough the importance and life-transforming power of coming to a place where you know deep within the recesses of your being that you are uniquely loved, valued and delighted in by God and that nothing – no thing – can ever change that. – Larry Warner, Journey With Jesus
As I pursue education and certification in Spiritual Direction, part of my study program includes going through the Ignatian Exercises. Ideally, one goes away for a month – or two – or more – and spends hours and days and weeks praying, meditating, contemplating, and such; all in order to better understand self and God. Obviously, for those entering the monastery that might be possible; but for those of us with ongoing responsibilities, it’s pretty tough to check out for a month – much less a year – to figure out such things.
So Larry Warner wrote a book in which he shares the slow-bake process of the Exercises in a way that is manageable, over a longer period of time. Journey With Jesus is that book, and the content and the process make up the bulk of the spiritual development of my current studies. Weekly, I meet via conference call with others who are on the same journey; it’s odd, being on the phone for such vulnerable conversations, but it works.
Today I wrap up the first three weeks of the exercises, during which the daily focus was one simple statement:
The grace I am seeking is a deeper awareness of God’s love for me.
I gotta be honest, y’all; I had this part figured out already. Put me at the head of the class and give me an A+, because I’m an overachiever in this department! Thanks to a major trauma brought on by my own pride and sinfulness over 15 years ago, I had no choice but to accept the fact that God loved me – deeply, unconditionally, overwhelmingly. I learned it and believed it, because I could not have survived otherwise.
So, I got this.
Except here’s the thing: I didn’t.
It’s kind of like being at a potluck dinner and needing one more piece of that awesome dessert – the one with the pecan crust and chocolate pudding and whipped cream. You know what I mean? It’s like realizing that the person in front of you is grabbing that final piece and that you’ll have to settle for the lame apple pie bought at the grocery store, and then a lady pulls the tinfoil off a 9 x 12 baking dish and praise God, somebody in divine wisdom and foresight brought two of those desserts and now you get to have some. Yippee!!
That’s a big ol’ metaphor, but it’s a big ol’ love. And that’s truly been my experience. It’s been exciting and devastating and gentle and kind. I thought I had it; I thought I knew it.
But there was so much more.
It’s extravagant, and almost hard to accept. Hard to believe.
But it is.
Today was review day for me, as we prepare to move into the next section of Journey With Jesus, where the focus will be on “internalizing the great love, power, wisdom and faithfulness of God as revealed in creation…”
Review question: How has your image of God and internalized sense of God’s love developed?
In this area – the one I thought I had figured out already – something new rose to the surface. In my journal, I wrote: The thought of the predominance of LOVE in all interactions with, thoughts of and speaking of God has given me a “new” gospel. It comes most easily, and it seems most important:
Tell Show others that they are beloved of God.
Honestly, this is not “new” – but it is rising to the top, becoming the surpassing aroma of importance, elevating to a place of priority and simplicity. I think of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sonnet, which came with powerful political implications, but which – at its core, connected to the Divine, is what remains when all else disappears:
…and love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.
In my journal, I went on to write I am tentatively moving more towards receiving, as a constant posture, and even asking, rather than working and earning. Tentative, slow; I need constant, daily reminders – but it is there.
This is my journey, unique to my experience, my challenges, my weaknesses, my history. I dare not suggest that it might be yours. But I can testify boldly to this:
There is always more.
Don’t settle. Don’t think you’ve got it figured out, or that you’ve gone as far as you can go.
There’s always more.
It’s always good.