There have been countless occasions in my life when I’ve heard that God has a plan for my life. Usually, I’m told, this is a good thing. I’m told that God’s plan is the best thing for me and, in fact, is wonderful! My job is to discover what God’s plan is for my life and when I do, I will be glad that I did.
What I’ve heard in these statements is this: “God has a plan that will make you happy.” Yes, I will admit it. When I hear about God’s plan for my life I always believe that God’s plan will somehow affect me in a good way. I will end up being happy, or healthy, or I will finally get the dream of my life, or I will be successful, or popular, or satisfied, or fulfilled.
Then I read this from St. Teresa of Avila:
Your attitude should be like that of a servant when he begins to serve. His care is about pleasing his master in everything. But the master is obliged to provide his servant with food as long as the servant is in the house and serves him, unless the master is so poor that he doesn’t have enough either for himself or for his servant. In our case this isn’t so; the Master always is, and will be, rich and powerful. Well, it wouldn’t be right for the servant to go about asking for food when he knows that the master of the house takes care of providing it for him, and must do so. The master would rightly tell his servant to be occupied in serving and seeking ways to please the master, for the servant, by worrying about what isn’t his own business, would be doing everything wrong.
Hmmm… all this time I thought God’s plan was about pleasing….(here it comes)….me. Yep. I will admit it. When I hear that God has a wonderful plan for my life I believe that plan, that wonderful God-birthed plan, is all about me and my pleasure, or happiness, or contentment. What if I got it all wrong? What if God’s plan is about God? What if my job isn’t to discover God’s plan for my life, but discover what God wants or better yet, how I can serve God? Why is it so easy to make God’s plan about me and my plan? Why is it so easy to make God’s will about my will? Why do I keep trying to get God to serve me and my purposes, when my job is to be serving God and God’s purposes? Only when I serve God will I discover what I was created for. Only then will I understand what the “Joy of the master” is all about.
I’m not sure who this woman is, but she has done a wonderful job describing the process of spiritual or contemplative reading. Her blog post is here. Here is an excerpt:
Many have referred to Lectio Divina as an ancient art. It begins with listening deeply with “the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict described the process. This means being still, sitting in silence, as the words on the page are slowly read and embodied through the heart and senses. This practice requires quieting down to be fully present to the lectio….reading…of the chosen sacred text.
Once a passage appears that speaks to me in a personal way I begin to meditate upon the meaning that is the beginning of the meditatio…..meditation stage of lectio divina. This is an important step of the process where I open my consciousness to allow the Word I am reading to become personally meaningful in a way that touches and inspires me at the deepest level.
Oratio….prayer…is the third stage. This is the place where I allow what I have been meditating, to begin to create change and awareness within my heart and mind. I have been reading, listening, and meditating and now I open myself in loving conversation with God to fully embody what I have received.
Finally, I simply rest in contemplatio….contemplation of the presence of God who has inspired my heart. I am in silence. I let go into this time of embracing the fullness of the experience.
…every moment of our life has purpose…every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itslf, has a dignity and a worth beyond human understanding…yet what a terible responsibility is here. For it means that no moment can be wasted, no opportunity missed, since each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in God’s plan. Think of your day, today or yesterday. Think of the work you idd, the people you met, moment by moment. What did it mean to you — and what might have it meant for God? Is this question too simple to answer, or are we just afraid to ask it for fear of the answer we must give? – Father Walter J. Ciszek, S. J.
It has taken much time, but I’m discovering that Father Ciszek is correct. I tend to view my life as a series of (relatively boring) moments. What if all my moments have purpose? What if even the dull, boring moments are a part of God’s plan?
I’m learning to see that every moment of my life is a gift from God. Not only that, but every moment of my life God is inviting me to join Him and experience His presence. If I don’t recognize that, I will probably miss the invitation and instead of accepting His invitation, it will instead pass me by.
Discovered this in one of the books for my doctoral program, Pathways to Spiritual Living by Dr. Susan Muto:
Everyone needs silence: the teacher, the nurse, the social worker; the artist, the poet, the doctor; the lawyer, the housewife, the cabdriver. To neglect this need is to risk living a tense, fragmented, spiritless life. Formation in Christian living is not confined to monasteries; it is a survival measure in the modern world. If we do not nourish our souls, they atrophy as do bodies without food. To maintain any kind of Christlike presence in the world, we need to seek silence and its fruits in the practices of spiritual reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation
As I spend time with Christians I’m discovering that we need to restore Christian spirituality. Muto is right when she says that Christian formation “is a survival measure in our modern world.” Instead of allowing our lives flow from an inner core that has been shaped and formed by Jesus, we allow our culture to shape and form us. We might argue the point, but I’m finding some very “unJesus” like attitudes, characteristics and actions within some of the most “Christian” organizations I serve.
I have a feeling that if the issue of silence, reflection and/or contemplation were to come up, many who are a part of those organizations would confess they spend most of their time in a frantic pace to ‘do what Jesus’ wants them to do (This is ironic). They may pray. They might read their bible daily. They perhaps, even have a quite time. Yet, those things have become pragmatic and functional rather than transformational.
We need to restore a spirituality that transforms us at the core so that our actions might flow from a center whose core and King is Christ.
For the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life…[A]nyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by compuing their deeds.
I wonder how much “American church culture” would change if our primary focus was on a “good life and a pure soul.” Would the way we understand the Scriptures change? Would our interpretations be different? Would our communities of faith be transformed?