It is not yet even 6:30pm, but my daughter is sound asleep in her bed. It is cooling outside, and I have my windows open to the breezes and the gentle songs of the birds. Not knowing quite what to do, I lay on my bed with a novel to engage my mind for a while. And there, a realization came to me.
See, I’d forgotten something really important that I’d learned from St. Ignatius. In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius tells us how to recognize the hand of God in our lives and the hand of the Enemy. It is helpful to have a spiritual director, an anam chara, to give us perspective, but a reasonably self-aware person can figure this out, too. There are two main possibilities:
- If one is living a sinful life, and moving deeper into sin and separation from God, then God acts and speaks in ways that frighten. God wants to turn you around, to help guide you back Godward. On the other hand, the Adversary acts and speaks to you in ways that are encouraging, consoling, pleasant. The Adversary – whether you view this as a single entity outside oneself or not – wants to guide you deeper into selfishness, self-centeredness, isolation from the Divine.
- Conversely, if one is turned toward God – in that very Benedictine conversion of life – then the Adversary acts and speaks in ways that frighten, to try to turn you away from God. But God sends consolations, encouragement, love, truth, light. God invites you deeper into relationship, while the Adversary seeks to isolate you.
So. I’ve been feeling besieged, threatened, frightened these past couple weeks. I’m in pain, and I’m frustrated, and it seems like my world is getting smaller and closing in. I’ve felt isolated and alone, and very, very afraid.
Okay, so I know what is going on there. Now I just need to discern who is sending me these feelings.
This afternoon, as I gave myself over to relaxation, releasing my body and my heart and my mind, I felt free and light. I felt healing energy, crystal clear white light, and a deep reservoir of love – these things restored me. I once again could feel my relationship with the Holy One, could hear the love and kindness of people around me.
See, the Adversary can’t speak love to us, even when the Enemy is trying to send us encouragements. The Adversary can’t create, can’t build up, can’t restore; no, the Enemy can only imitate, tear down, destroy. So it was clear to me that I am on that second path.
I have been engaged in work of discernment, for several months now, for listening for the whispers (and shouts!) of God’s voice and trying to learn what the next step is on my journey. I am studying Old Testament Hebrew this semester, together with maplestar, and I am engaging in discernment and formation with an Anglican religious community. See, I know the Adversary will go to any lengths to prevent a priest from being made in God’s church. Why should I believe that the Enemy would go to less effort to prevent a religious from taking vows in God’s church?
I am a child of God.
I am created in the image of God.
I belong to Jesus.
I live in the Light, immersed in the Water of the Holy Spirit, heart singing with the Word.
Thanks be to God!