Elizabeth Reardon contemplates how looking at our spiritual life from a different direction can help us see God at work in our lives.
If we are blessed that we may discover that we can "find God in all things", be "surprised by joy", stand outside ourselves and see the world from a single perspective from which God sees it, integrated and whole. (Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits Vol. XX, 5, November 1989)
Earlier this month, to my delight, I was approached by my sophomore son to take a second look at his honors history essay and offer opinions. This rather independent student was finding that he was facing difficulty in both avoiding repetition and conveying the alternative argument persuasively in favor of own his point of view. In strictly following the rubric before him, he had lost sight of the cohesiveness of the overall work. Sitting down together, I asked him to tell me the story that he wished for his reader to hear.
"What if you started this paragraph by beginning with its ending?" I asked. "Where would you lead the reader?"
With a quizzical smile he pursued, "Ok, I think I follow; can you show me?"
Sentence by sentence, we walked through the essay and suddenly he recognized that the argument had been there all along. All that was needed was to flip the script, to glimpse the whole and then carry the reader through while being unafraid to present another viewpoint. These "surprises" were not really surprises at all to the author, but rather integrated into the entire fabric of the piece. They were, in fact, opportunities to consider previously held opinions and to actually strengthen one's belief in the premise.
So too is our journey in a lived experience of faith. We can become so fixated on the situation in front of us that we lose sight of the goal, that we are a people redeemed and the fullness of hope that this reality bears. God, author of all creation, holds our future in his hands, and each story, each detail is not disparate from one another but integrated in the story of the world. There is also a larger context of God at work in the lives of those around us, and their stories are equally important in how we grow in understanding of the One who seeks to be in relationship with us. This is why we are often surprised, albeit daily, by both miracles amidst tragedy and in the unimaginable innocuous ways that God appears to draw us close.
Are you in a place in your life where God seems hidden and life so overwhelming that you can't seem to follow the story plot anymore? Perhaps instead try flipping the script, looking rather at God's promise to you and then working your way back to where you are now.
Ignatian spirituality gives us the Examen as a way of doing just that. Here, we begin with asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and hearts to reveal what it is we are to see, while giving thanks to God. In reviewing the day for God at work, and opportunities missed we do so always with the hope and promise of the day to come. We are invited to trust that each day's ending leads to a new beginning and that God awaits us there too.
Today, I invite you to remember that you are chosen, called, and loved, and that as a follower of Christ the promise of our destination helps determine how we live out each day. Allow yourself to be surprised that, be it comedy or tragedy, our God is in all things, working it all for good!
Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Reardon
Image: Pexels (2016)
About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three; certified spiritual director; and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.