On wanting God and not wanting God at the same time

If you desire more contact with God in your life (like I do), then it's good to pick up tools from those who have become masters at this in the Christian tradition. One such master is Ignatius of Loyola, 16th-century Catholic and founder of the Jesuit Order. Ignatius was a Spanish knight, and he was badly injured in battle when a cannonball shattered his leg. He spent nearly a year in a hospital, and during that time he started exploring what it would mean to serve Christ with the kind of loyalty required of an earthly knight.

Ignatius of Loyola
In his journey, Ignatius noticed that there were some things that drew him closer to God and some things that pulled him farther away from God. He came to call the former "consolation" and the latter "desolation."

In my forthcoming book, Luminous, I talk about "practicing the presence of God" and "practicing the absence of God." It overlaps with Ignatius' "consolation" and "desolation."

If we are hungry for God, we do well to start looking at our lives with these lenses. Better yet, it's good to look at each day in terms of what drew us closer and what pulled us away. Want to get even better? Break up the day into parts and do the same thing. (Ignatius called this exercise the Prayer of Examen.) Journal about what you notice, and then take stock of the patterns that emerge. This exercise will provide abundant material for you and God to talk about.

Oh, and it's best if you are honest with yourself and God. Pretending is self-defeating.

I am embarking on a new season of structuring my devotional life after the pattern laid out by Ignatius. If you would like some of this in your own life, I would recommend starting with the Prayer of Examen. For a thorough curriculum, I recommend a book written by my former spiritual director, Larry Warner: Journey with Jesus.

The first thing I noticed this morning? If I'm really honest, I have mixed feelings about God. I desire him, but I resist him at the same time. Can you relate? Ignatius would tell us it's okay to be honest about such things. Likewise, I decided long ago that God is big enough to take anything I need to share with him. If we stay with the spiritual journey, the reasons for our resistance will be clarified as God shows them to us. Then we have the chance to grow through them. I have done a lot of work in this area, and I have a lot of work left to do.

Wanting God and not wanting God at the same time -- it is ground shared by all God's people. The greats are the ones who grow through their own resistance.


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