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As a young convert, I initially did not fully understand what authentic spirituality even looked like; I tried to initiate my own spiritual growth. The harder I tried to grow spiritually, the more I seemed to hit a wall. The harder I tried to surrender and trust God, the harder my inner soul resisted and clung to control. The experience often brought me to tears of frustration; I was stuck. What I failed to grasp was with all my striving, I was actually centered completely on my own efforts to please God and win intimacy with Him. I was stuck.

God Initiates

Our spiritual journey is not so much about our efforts to become perfect and connect with God as it is about becoming aware and responding to God’s efforts to connect with us. Our egocentric viewpoint focuses on our efforts because we are self-centered, not God centered.
Pope Francis reminds us it is always God who acts first; we can only respond to Him. God is always the one who initiates communion with us but somehow we think we are the ones who set out to find God. On Jan. 31, 2016, Pope Francis said:
 ... it’s always Christ who takes the initiative in meeting us where we are. God comes to encounter us, it’s always he who makes the first step.” God is the one who is proactive. This is the relationship which is at the heart of the story of salvation.
The Catechism explains further:
Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life. Thus we shall consider first that search, then the divine Revelation by which God comes to meet man … The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.
The Father always is the one who initiates. He seeks out and invites the exhausted, the poor and the broken to His Heavenly Banquet. Those originally invited were too busy to attend the wedding feast:
Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’  “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  Luke 14:21-23

Man-Made Spirituality

Henri Nouwen explains the futility of man-made spirituality:
For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair. Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Nouwen took his focus off himself and looked to God, responding and surrendering, rather than initiating and performing to earn the prize of intimacy with Christ.
When I was finally so exhausted from trying to be spiritual, I relaxed which gave God the opening He needed. God always initiates a meeting with us when we wait and listen and trust with open hands, ready to respond to his invitation.

Copyright 2018 Melanie Jean Juneau