Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. (All for the greater glory of God) ~ Ignatius of Loyola
As you attempt to bring the two simple exercises (see chapter 6 and chapter 7) into your life, remember to give yourself much grace as you practice them. Being still while holding your thoughts at bay can be a chore, especially for those of us who are active doers. And in our culture, who isn’t?
You see, our society just doesn’t allow for the luxury of silence, solitude, and a place of quiet reflection. While some may talk of its value, few find the time to practice what they preach. The earliest followers of Jesus called these exercises we introduced to you, “disciplines.”
Yet, for those of us who don’t want to make our journey with Jesus into a work of sin management and hard labor focused on rule keeping, might I suggest that you give yourself much grace as you respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him where He leads. My wife loves to use a favorite expression she learned when she was a music teacher as we teach these “disciplines” to others. You might want to write this down…
Practice doesn’t make perfect…it makes permanent!
You see, A Journey Into Good is not a trek into trying to become a perfect person, a worker of good everyplace we go. As I understand it, Jesus of Nazareth is the only true doer of Good, and my job is not to replace His perfection with mine, but simply walk consistently on the road to goodness with Him. After 60+ years of journeying with Jesus, I’ve not arrived at perfection, but I have found more of a permanence to my passion to follow Him wherever He goes.
So, what’s next as we continue on A Journey Into Good?
It’s been my experience that the next important step in all this is to align yourself with at least one other person who is on the same journey you are.
If you were attempting, for example, to retrain yourself in your eating habits, you would most likely find a person or persons who are eating the same diet you are working on. If your goal is to get more exercise in your life, you’d most likely join a gym or health club where you can surround yourself with others who are trying to accomplish the same thing.
Quite honestly, it’s the same with journeying with Jesus.
And the nice thing about all this, is that past generations of Jesus-followers knew as well that it would be beneficial for a newbie in Christ to meet regularly with what was then called a spiritual director, one who would come alongside a person, encouraging them as they take step after step with Jesus.
Back in the 16th century, there was a man named Ignatius of Loyola who put together a wonderfully practical set of exercises that he used in helping others along the way. For centuries now, the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius have been invaluable to women and men who desire to grow in their spirituality, coming alongside Jesus of Nazareth as they explore His life through the lense of the New Testament texts written about Him.
After 30-plus years of pastoring, I’m convinced that one of the very best ways for people to grow in their faith is to align themselves with a trained spiritual director who will accompany them as they walk through the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. A trained spiritual director does her/his work through a combination of means: silence, prayer, reverent listening, excellent questions, keen observations, attention to the mind, affect, and body of the directee, self–awareness, and knowledge of both human personality and spiritual dynamics.
In spiritual direction, you and your director come together for the primary purpose of engaging in meaningful spiritual conversations, focusing on the presence and activity of God in your life. In a word, spiritual direction is co-discernment, with your director holding space open for you, discerning together to see what Jesus is doing, not just in that moment, but over the months and seasons of your life. One author defines spiritual direction as a wonderful way to “dust for the fingerprints of God.”
My wife and I have been training Christ-centered spiritual directors for several years now and we are thrilled to offer you our growing network of trained women and men who can come alongside you as you take this exciting next step on A Journey Into Good.
For more information about the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, and a complete listing of spiritual directors waiting to come alongside you, click here.
If you don’t feel you’re ready for that big of a step (don’t worry, many aren’t!), then might I suggest you simply peruse our website, beginning here on the subject of simply caring for your soul.
Thank you for taking the time to journey through our little essay. My hope (and prayer) is that you have heard Jesus’ personal invitation to you to draw closer to Him through the simple steps we’ve shared with you here. I do hope you will contact us, or one of our directors, and chat with us more about all you are experiencing as you take these next steps in A Journey Into Good.
Keep going,and may the Good Lord bless and keep you!
Click here to go back to our introduction & index to A Journey Into Good.