Grazing Herd of Kids

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, One does not live on bread alone.’”  Luke 4:3-4


“Can I have a snack?” 

“Didn’t you JUST eat?”

“I need a different snack, a better snack.”

Crackers, cereal, apple slices, yogurts, cheese sticks. They scavenge around the kitchen, their survival mode in high gear, acting as if they have crossed a barren desert with nothing more than stale bread to sustain them. In fact, they have been at a school with a universal hot lunch program, their own snacks at recess, and a breakfast bag that comes home at the end of the day. Yet, my kids still come home with bottomless pits in their stomachs. 

My herd of grazing kids became a Lenten image.  In today’s Scripture, the devil tempts Jesus to turn stone into bread and thus satisfy his own needs. Jesus, in calling out the devil’s temptation, calls forth the areas of our own lives that we are desperately trying to fill with meaning. Many people use the same strategies to satisfy their physical and spiritual hunger. The “snack impulses” that spoke to me this Lent were boredom and dissatisfaction.

Boredom

After the barrage of activity and stimulation at school, my kids come crashing through the door. Backpacks go flying, shoes get scattered. They are tired from their day, yet filled with a restless energy that needs somewhere to go. So they walk into the kitchen and look for something that peeks their interest. They peruse the goodie bags from a birthday party, the remnants of Valentines day exchanges, and whatever treats Matthew baked with Grandma. They are looking for stimulation and excitement; and not yet ready to tackle that math worksheet or practice spelling words.

When our day to day routines begin to drag and feel monotonous we begin to seek satisfaction elsewhere. We stuff ourselves with self-help podcasts and tip sheets from bloggers. Sometimes that change can be lasting, but oftentimes we are spurred by a restless energy that we have not quite found a place to direct.


Dissatisfaction

The hunt for a “different” or “better” snack can also come from a dissatisfaction with the options before us. In our kitchen this happens when the lunch at school doesn’t live up to their hopes or (gasp!) they run out of the main option and are left with a sunbutter sandwich. When nothing seems to satisfy our craving, we keep eating and eating until something does feel right. We sign up for every class and seminar, try every method of praying, and keep consuming until we stop the ache inside. Lent can be particularly difficult in this way: there are so many wonderful prayer programs, series, and retreats on offer. When we have not been able to identify what God is calling us to, or trying to call forth in us, we bounce from one prayer style (or one snack) to the next. Hunger in itself is not bad, and it can be a tool for self-discovery. In our haste to make it go away, we sometimes grab whatever is in sight. Before we choose a solution, sometimes God is inviting us to spend more time with Him simply naming that longing and asking for wisdom and guidance. 

As we enter this Lenten season of Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer, perhaps God is inviting us to enter into our spiritual hunger with greater patience and openness. 

What are the hunger pains I am noticing in my own life today?  How does God reveal those longings to me personally?

Follow me, and other great Ignatian writers, this Lent at http://www.christusministries.org.

More Myself

I have become kid-chaos. Who I am is a person rushing out the door grabbing folders and backpacks, reminding everyone what day it is. I am the one who does laundry at night. I am a chauffeur, a cheerleader, a shoe finder, and a homework deadline drill sergeant.  My waking hours are defined by so much of what’s needed for survival.

A lot of other parents express a similar sentiment. A friend shared that she and her husband recently started commuting together. While it hadn’t left her as much time for calling her family or friends throughout the week, it’s become the most consistent uninterrupted time she and her husband have without their kids. “We actually like each other,” she joked.  Beneath the chuckle is the struggle so many caregivers discover. We allow ourselves to be so consumed by the ones we serve, that we lose ourselves completely. 

I’ve noticed certain friends, especially those I’ve known for a lot longer than I’ve had my kids, have a way of reminding me of who I was in the “before.” They remind me not just of funny (or embarrassing memories), but of aspects of my identity that have been sidelined. They remind me that I am more than the morning, afternoon, and evening chaos. They remind me that I have ideas and thoughts that matter to the world, even if some days it feels like no one around me listens to what I have to say. “You STILL aren’t wearing shoes?”

What if I stopped allowing myself to be lost in the chaos? I imagine Mary as consumed with Jesus as I am with my own kids. Except instead of losing herself, she found herself even more.  

What if I allowed my life to be as overwhelmed by Christ as my kids have overwhelmed it?  In doing so, perhaps I can be even more myself in the midst of the everyday chaos.

Making a Church

Feast of St. Lucy, Martyr
December 13, 2021, Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;

    teach me your paths,

Guide me in your truth and teach me,

    for you are God my savior.  – Psalm 25: 4-5

I’m making a Church! 

Our two-year was putting together a little 6-piece puzzle of a Church during Mass. The book has a prayer accompanied by a puzzle that snaps into place. Each time he assembles the scene about going to mass he announces “I am making a Church”.   


Many countries celebrate today’s Feast of St. Lucy with candlelight processions, reminding us that we each bear Christ, bringing hope and light into the world. When I look around, I see a lot of darkness. I see people struggling with depression, substance abuse, or loneliness. I see people struggling to find affordable housing. I see people lost, or without a sense of purpose in life. I also see Churches struggling with empty pews and disengaged hearts. Everywhere, there is darkness. 

But all around, there is also light breaking through that darkness. There are people of light with generous hearts, the sympathetic listener, the patient customer service representative, the supportive coworkers. There are moments of light: an unexpected compliment, a meaningful conversation, a reconnection with a significant positive memory,, a reminder of unfailing support from a loved when when undertaking a new venture. 

As St. Lucy reminds us, there is light all around us even in the darkest of moments. Even in the painful history of our Church, there are people of light breaking through. These people expose injustice,  illuminate truth, and shine hope on a different future. These saints and martyrs among us challenge us to more. As my toddler says, we are “making a church.”  What kind of church will it be? 

Parched

Friday of the Second Week of Advent. Read more….

“Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life. He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers.”
– Psalm 1:3

Being an urban Southern Californian, I’ve never really seen a “tree planted near running water,” especially not one that receives life from a stream. I can imagine the water flowing over root systems, the lush greenery, the leaves and stems that shoot off from the thicker branches. I can picture this scene, but I have no real experience of this kind of life-giving water. 

When other people describe prayer or their image of God, it can feel like looking at images of water.  I get the general idea but I could not tell you the temperature or depth of the water.  I could not tell you the sound the water makes rushing downstream, or when it gurgles through a narrower opening. I do not know what it feels like to sit on the edge of the stream and watch the water flow.  I look at other people and compare myself: I am not as good a mom, I am less organized, I am more anxious. They all have it together more than I do. I need a thicker skin. I am like a tree planted just outside the reach of the running water. My thirst is not quenched and my roots remain dry. This is exactly where God meets us. He comes into our present moment, into the parched places of our soul and offers hope. Observing where God has been for others may help us to recognize God in our own midst, but we will not be satisfied until we drink from that well of eternal life.

An Imaginative Prayer 

Imagine yourself standing at the edge of some source of water (a stream, the ocean, a lake). Using your senses (touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste) place yourself by the water’s edge.  Allow all of the sensations of the water’s edge to become evident. 

Now, imagine yourself gently stepping into the water.  Does it feel as you expected? Perhaps the rush knocks you off balance a bit.  Imagine yourself regaining solid footing and standing amidst the current. As you experience the water flooding around your legs and feet, imagine that God’s love will wash you in the same way. The grace was waiting just ahead of you… all you needed to do was take a small step into the flow. 

Today, do I feel like a bystander to God’s grace? Or have I allowed myself to be immersed in whatever gift God offers me on this day?

Hurting

Saturday of the First Week of Advent, originally posted on https://www.christusministries.org/advent-blog/saturday-of-the-first-week-of-advent-1

“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” – Matthew 10:7-8

“My body hurting.”

It has been almost two weeks since our toddler began feeling sick.  He tested negative for everything on the 22-pathogen panel (including COVID) and we are more than halfway through a 10-day course of antibiotics for the secondary infection in his ears that developed. In addition to the cornucopia of symptoms he has displayed, he keeps telling us “my body hurting.” He cannot really say what hurts (we know his ears must hurt from the ear infections, and it seems like his face hurts from sinus swelling). Without being able to articulate the specifics, his message has been clear… his body hurts.  We have talked to the doctor nearly every day this week, run all the tests, and exhausted the home remedies. We stay awake with him at night when he is too uncomfortable to sleep. But we can’t really take away his suffering.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus meets people who are similarly hurting. Like “sheep without a shepherd,” they wander lost through their lives.  They may not be able to name the void they feel or identify what pain is crippling them. Yet, Jesus sees and acknowledges their genuine needs.  He likewise offers that same healing to each one of us.  Jesus also engages the disciples in this ministry, encouraging them to allow the grace of God to flow through them in a way that transforms the people around them. They are challenged to freely give and freely offer hope and healing. 

I long for God’s grace to flow stronger  than stress, anxiety, or resentment through me. I am tired of being short-tempered, discouraged; and hopeless. This Advent, I pray for the grace to experience the nearness of Christ like Mary does, and to allow that healing to flow through me in some small way. 

What emptiness inside me longs to be filled?

How does Jesus offer me comfort and healing today?

On Solid Ground

The rain fell, the floods came,

and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” – Matthew 7:25

First grade teacher: “What season comes after summer?”

My kid: “Fire season!”

Observing a lesson on seasons during Zoom school last year, it became very apparent that first graders in California have no idea what the “seasons” are. The pictures of snow were described as being “somewhere on vacation” and the pictures of rain were met with blank stares. 

Fall in Southern California looks nothing like the storybook pictures of brightly colored leaves, brisk winds, and layers of sweaters and scarves. The temperature hit 90 degrees in November this year. The hot Santa Ana winds rattled the windows, overturned a porch swing, and knocked down a fence. Since the power companies were held liable for previous mass fires, they have been shutting off power when the winds kick up. Thanksgiving day 

brought another viscous round of winds that triggered more of these outages. Thousands of houses in our area were without power all day on Thanksgiving. Some people had generators.  Thanksgiving feasts were kept warm on BBQs and enjoyed via candlelight.  Still, there were many spoiled turkeys that got dumped in the trash on Black Friday. 

With “the winds buffeting the house” here, it’s easy to imagine the type of spiritual attack described in today’s readings. I’ve seen the effects of these winds, felt the pull as I drive my car on the freeways, heard the sounds rattling as I struggle to fall asleep. We’ve been lucky so far to have minimal damage and distribution.

These images also describe the struggle to remain faithful to God at times. Instead of feeling a noticeable “pulling away” from God, the false spirit distracts and disorients us. We are busy keeping our ship from sinking, so we can barely focus on staying the course. Once the storm settles, we dig our navigational equipment out from the rubble and retrace our steps. We all have experiences like this that rechart our life’s course: illness, job changes, a new birth, the death of a loved one.  The storms come and go. 

As these winds, fires, and turmoil attack us, God draws closer and closer until we are one with Him. In this season of Advent, we are invited to be as near to Christ as Mary was. That is the greatest gift we can hope to receive. 

How has the false spirit tried to distract and disorient me? 

How has God shown me “true north”? 

Photo by Igor Sokolov on Unsplash

Danger Ahead: Praying For Humility

This article was written as a part of the series “Living As Contemplative Leaders” in Becky Eldredge’s Into the Deep Blog.


Let me have too deep a sense of humor ever to be proud.

Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly.

Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human,

most truthful,

and most worthy of your serious consideration.

—Daniel A. Lord, SJ, in Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits

As contemplative leaders, we can find it difficult to admit when we are wrong or that we do not have the answers.  As a follower, I most appreciate leaders who have been willing to learn from their peers, the people they serve, and the world around them.  I feel disempowered and frustrated when a leader hands down a mandate that is uninformed or based on a lack of understanding of the situation. 

Another difficulty we often face as leaders is admitting when something that once thrived has ceased to serve its purpose…. That a beloved ministry has reached its conclusion. Or that something we once believed in and built, has passed to a new generation of leaders with their own ideas and vision.  A ministry or opportunity that seemed invaluable to us or our community is no longer a place where we thrive.  Admitting any of these feelings requires a great deal of humility, a willingness to name our own limitations while allowing God to reveal Godself more fully.  

As a recent college graduate, I worked with a team of Jesuits and lay ministers to help Jesuit colleges form Christian Life Community (CLC) programs on their campuses. CLC has a 500 year history in the Jesuit world, a 100-year history in the United States. Who was I, a 22-year-old theology grad student to make recommendations on how the program could best serve more people in the 21st century? Many older adult leaders could not hear my suggestions or could not move past “the way we have always done it.” 

Yet, the members of the National Formation Team listened to me with respect, encouraged my ideas, and shared them with other groups.  I recall deep conversations with elders in the Vietnamese-American community, who had themselves established young adult CLCs in their post-war diaspora.  I experienced similar collaboration with CLC and Ignatian leaders from a wide range of backgrounds. Although it was not always easy, I appreciated how many people allowed me and other young adult leaders to forge our own programs within the wider context of this lay movement. I recognize now the humility it took for each one of us to bring our experiences forward and listen for what we might learn from one another. 

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius offers a meditation on Three Degrees of Humility, a deepening, humbling to God’s will. The first degree is simply being obedient to God’s will and desiring to follow God. In the second, a sense of freedom not to desire wealth or success over poverty and struggle. The third degree is to actually choose the struggle and pain that Christ himself experienced. The primary goal is not to suffer, but to be so near to Christ you feel all that he endured. Ignatius himself struggled with putting aside his ego and desire for honor and glory.  While it is possible to receive accolades and success in the service of God, our own accomplishments should not overshadow our desire to remain faithful to God. 

It can be easy to slip into the routine of crossing things off my list. I move from one task to the next, from one item on the calendar or strategic plan to the next. How often have I stopped to ask God: Where do you want to reveal yourself in this work today? Where can I make your love more known to those I encounter? Perhaps it is in the article I write, the social media content calendar I edit, or the data I compile for a grant report. 

God might also be revealing love, light, and hope through an opportunity not in my strategic plan. God may be stirring something within my own heart, and it may take a great deal of humility and faith to respond to that nudge. 

Go Deeper:

Review all the qualities of a Contemplative Leader 

Pray with St. Ignatius and the Three Kinds of Humility  
Reflect on the sentiment “I Am Not Worthy” 
Reflect on humility

Distorted Mirrors

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Three kids, a pandemic, and nearing the “late thirties” stage of not-so-young adulthood… Suddenly, shopping is not as fun as it used to be. Fall has brought a few occasions that require me to ditch my uniform of mom jeans and Ann Taylor Loft T-shirts. The most important of these is my sister’s long-delayed wedding celebration. In the midst of back to school preparations for the kids, my own work schedule, and my husband’s promotion at work, I snuck in a few quick shopping trips.  I  frantically grabbed anything off the rack that might fit me (or the color scheme for the wedding). Everything turned out to be a bad shape, the wrong size, or an unflattering cut. No matter where I looked, I could not find the right fit. I felt discouraged and hopeless. 

It was time for a serious intervention. No more quick browsing when I had an extra 30 minutes between obligations. Enough of the ordering things online that end up looking nothing like the pictures when they arrive. I was done with the picked over racks in a near-empty mall. My best friend and I blocked out an entire afternoon. We left our kids with babysitters and drove 30 minutes away to a bigger, better stocked shopping center. We were committed and we were not leaving without a dress. We spent 4 hours and I tried on dozens of dresses in two stores.  I actually ended up buying the first thing I saw when I walked in the door. What did this experience tell me about Ignatian discernment?

I realized how many similarities there are between a successful shopping trip and the process of prayerful decision making with the Lord. These tools can assist us during an individual discernment that affects our families or livelihoods (a move, a career change, a new ministry opportunity) or a communal discernment that involves more stakeholders. In healthy ministry settings, leaders use these and other techniques to truly listen to the needs of the people involved and assess the gifts and limitations of the staff and volunteers in order to better discern where God might be revealing a response.

So my rules for buying an important dress OR making a major discernment in life…

  1. A Dedicated Time
    When faced with an important decision, it is important to set aside time to allow the key questions to emerge. Oftentimes I find myself “reacting” and grabbing at whatever solutions seem to be available, rather than taking the time to step back and think about what I really want or what my family really needs. By not allowing proper time, I limit myself to whatever ill-fitting dress is on the discount rack rather than choosing what truly works best for me. 
  2. A Safe Place
    The pandemic exacerbated a general feeling of “never being alone” and constantly having my kids hanging on me and clamouring for attention. As I tried to fit dress shopping into our busy schedule, I was only focused on the outcome of getting a dress quickly and cheaply. I did not have the space to process my dissatisfaction with what I was seeing in the mirror or frustrations regarding the lack of options in the stores. In discernment, we require a “space” where we can allow ourselves grief, disappointment, joy, and apprehension. Sometimes our physical space helps facilitate mental and spiritual space. These can include going on a weekend or week-long retreat, taking a day off for recollection and rest,  or just allowing a set time for prayer each day. These types of “safe spaces” make it easier to recognize the voice of God communicating to us. 
  3. A Companion You Trust
    A friend, spiritual director, therapist, or mentor can provide companionship that encourages honest discernment. Oftentimes we are so close to the situation that we either struggle to see clearly what is going on, or encounter resistance to accept the truth in some way. This compassionate listener can be one part of creating a safe environment for discernment. A companion raises questions, reflects back emotions, points out assumptions, and offers support. These individuals offer a sense that “we are not alone” or a reassurance that even if we fail, we are loved. 
  4. A Clear Mirror
    When I finally showed my friend the very first dress I saw, she stared at me in disbelief. “It’s perfect. How did you not see it was perfect? It looks exactly like you.” As I tried on dress after dress, I had begun to doubt what I saw in the mirror. My perception had become warped by disappointment and self-doubt. I did not trust that beauty was reflecting back at me, I only saw the lumps and rolls. My friend provided the encouragement I needed to both make a decision, as well as reconnect with my own instincts. 

Sometimes we sense that deep down, we have the answers we seek, but we need to wade through the emotions, doubts, and fears in order to arrive at a conclusion. The Ignatian way of discernment can provide helpful tools to break through those barriers, see more clearly, and take a step forward with greater trust in God. In A Friendship Like No Other, William Barry, SJ describes that as we discern with God, “we allow the Spirit to transform us into people who are more like the images of God we are created to be—that is, more like Jesus, who was clearly a contemplative in action.” The Gospels show us example after example of Jesus as a leader who listens to people, hears their fears and concerns, and moves them towards greater life. 

Each day, we are presented with similar opportunities to listen to God’s unique way of speaking to us as leaders in our families and work. The setting could be anywhere: a Board of Directors meeting for a non-profit, the spiritual direction room on a silent retreat, a Zoom screen, a playdate at the park, a department store fitting room.

Go Deeper

Learn more about St. Ignatius and Contemplative Leadership here

Be inspired by Stephanie Clouatre Davis as she tackles her own discernment.

This post was written as part of a series on Contemplative Leadership for the blog Into the Deep.

Searching for Our Umbrella

My Ignatian Moment: Ignatius and the Donkey. This post was written as a part of Becky Eldredge’s series on Ignatian Spirituality. See more at https://beckyeldredge.com/intothedeep/.

While the baby and I play in the sand, the older kids ride wave after wave into the shore on their boogie boards. My husband stands guard in the shallow water. He shows them and my niece how to watch the waves approach, let the small ones pass, and then ride into shore on the stronger currents. Over and over again, all afternoon. They swim out, wait, and “catch” the waves. 

Every so often, they stand on the sand, their eyes dart around, scanning over the various multicolored umbrellas and E-Z ups. They take in the man pulling a wheeled ice cream cart; pass over the family fully dressed and opening sand toys from a package; ignore the teenagers who brought their puppy to see the ocean for the first time. They are seeking out our “set-up” in the collage of umbrellas and towels dotting the beach. Sometimes they need a drink of water, or just to wipe the sand out of their eyes. They race over to this temporary home just long enough to satisfy their immediate needs. And then the ocean calls them back. 

How could this beach umbrella really be an Ignatian moment? 

Although St. Ignatius of Loyola became a masterful expert in discernment, he did not start out that way. His youth was filled with self-serving choices and his “home base” was not God. As he went out into the world, fought in battles, and cavorted with other soldiers and courtiers, the truth he returned to was the honor and glory of his family and his country. The truth he continued to seek was his OWN comfort, pride, and success. 

After his conversion experience while convalescing in the castle at Loyola, he was energized and ready to give his life over to God. On the road to Jerusalem, he had a disagreement with a Moor over key matters of theology regarding the Virgin Mary. Filled with righteous indignation, Ignatius’s first instinct is to defend Mary’s honor at all cost. Our newly converted Ignatius was considering murdering the Moor over this disagreement. Unsure whether this was TRULY what God was calling him to do, Igntatius let the donkey walking ahead of him make the decision for him. If the donkey took the same route as the Moor, then Ignatius would follow and kill the man. Thankfully, the donkey took the path towards Jerusalem and Ignatius continued on his way.

Instead of relying on the insights in prayerful decision making that God had already begun to reveal to him, Ignatius demanded that God “send a sign” that he was doing the right thing. How often have I done the same thing? When I demand that God send a quick answer, I ignore the voice of God that has already been murmuring in my ear. I block out the invitation to trust, and allow fear to be amplified. I allow the doubt to become a cycle that feeds itself.

My donkey is fear and indecision.  I allow the fear to drive me where it wants to take me. I become caught up in its energy. Once exhausted, I abdicate control. The donkey tramples over grace, barreling through the path God had already prepared for me. The past 18 months of global pandemic has only increased the cycle of doubts. I revisit decisions already made. What instincts can I trust? Did I make the right decision? Hindsight is not 20/20 right now. In hindsight, I find more reasons to doubt myself. 


I am like my children, standing on the sand looking for the right umbrella.  In discernment, I stop and look around me. I take in the cacophony of distractions.  I remind myself of where I have been and where I am trying to go. I retrace my own steps.  God has also come down to the beach. God has set up God’s umbrella, and brought cool water and snacks.

Will I sit down and enjoy this time with God?

Go Deeper

Consider praying with John 21:1-14 //Jesus appears to the disciples on the beach

Get in touch with how God speaks to you.  
Listen for how God might be inviting you to take a step towards greater love.

Photo Credit: Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash
https://unsplash.com/photos/-a0v4owqUUM

When the Road Forks: Recalculating Route

This is written as a part of a series for the Ignatian Year on Ignatius’ Cannonball Experience and life transformation. See more at: https://beckyeldredge.com/author/jcoito/

With 650 miles of freeway and 22,000 miles of surface streets, Los Angeles County offers an almost unlimited number of roads to travel. I have been known to miss my exit or get on the onramp heading Eastbound when I want to go Westbound. I do not always plug my destination into the GPS.  I somehow missed the fact that planned construction has condensed 6 lanes down to 1 lane on my intended route… there was probably a detour that was recommended. The road forks, not just once but countless times. There are an unlimited number of roads to travel, and countless ways for me to get lost in my own backyard. In discernment, the question is often: am I truly lost, or just moving at my own pace? Am I still on the way, but just taking a circuitous route to get there?

The Reroute

In his autobiography, St. Ignatius described a pivotal fork in the road on his own journey to Montserrat. After his “cannonball experience” and subsequent recuperation at the castle of Loyola, Ignatius had a disagreement with a Moor on some key points of faith (particularly around the Virgin Mary).  Ignatius had to make the decision to either let the matter rest (and continue on his journey) or follow the man and seek vengeance in defence of Mary’s honor. Not sure what the right answer was, Ignatius allowed his donkey to make the choice for him.  This was perhaps not his greatest moment… Thankfully, the donkey chose the path away from murder and violence, and towards the new life that Ignatius had already begun to imagine for himself. 

Like coming up on an unexpected road closure, some discernments involve a massive recalculation. What would have happened if Ignatius had not been hit with the cannonball? The valiant soldier was probably content with his life. Without such a life-altering injury, he may never have spent time in deep discernment, nor had the courage to forge ahead on this different path. Some of my dear friends have had completely life-altering recalibrations in recent years: a cancelled engagement, leaving a religious order, an unexpected death of a loved one. Each transition involves grieving the loss of the life that was and seeking out alternate roads. 

The “Faster” Route

Sometimes the recalibration our lives need is more subtle. Have you ever had the navigation alert pop up that says “faster route” has been identified? At least in Los Angeles, the vast majority of the time the route does not turn out to be faster. The “better” route involves me making a challenging left turn from a narrow alley across six lanes of traffic. The “faster route” leads me on a wild goose chase to shave mere minutes off of a ninety minute drive.  

Particularly in times of difficulty or desolation, I can feel tempted to seek any route that looks better than the one I am on. If only I was not trying to work across so many time zones…if only my mom hadn’t broken her hand right after we all got vaccinated. If only our school had gone back in person full time instead of staying in a hybrid part-time mode. I keep looking for something external to fix the things that are bothering me. Something outside of me must be able to free up more time, streamline my life, get me faster to where I want to be. I am stuck in gridlock, desperate for a way out that is not coming. 

When the mocking tone on the GPS tells me there is a better route, a faster route, most of the time I realize it is just an illusion of control. There is no faster route in LA. I take these alerts as a warning to settle down and prepare for the long haul…find a podcast to listen to, call a good friend to keep me company while I drive, enjoy the peace and quiet away from my kids. 

The Slow Merge

Usually the impetus for change does not happen instantly. My husband often asks me, “if what you are doing is not working, why do you keep doing it?” Recently he has asked this question about my approach to our son’s distance learning during the pandemic and the purgatory that is cleaning the house up after three little kids. I express frustration with the results (or lack thereof), but without a better solution I stay stuck in my old routines.  

Like Ignatius, something about my current way has ceased to give me life or energize me. I then need time (sometimes a long time) to ruminate about the dis-ease I am feeling. I move to the stage of trying to ignore the changes that are needed, because such a change is difficult, uncomfortable, scary or confusing. If I were Ignatius I would probably have spent a few extra days in bed reading, just so I did not have to force a decision yet. Finally, at some point the desire for change overpowers the desire for comfort and stability. After hanging out between two lanes for a while, I finally make the merge (much to the relief of everyone around me).

It may take a long time. I may need to reroute on numerous occasions. I might take multiple roads before finding the correct one. I may spend time in the slow lane, letting the more confident drivers pass me. As long as I keep my inner GPS oriented to God, I know I will get there someday. For now, I am just “recalculating route”… 

Going Deeper
Here are some other great resources on discernment from the Into the Deep team:

Discernment at Different Stages of Life  by Vinita Hampton Wright

Listening for God When We’re Stuck by Becky Eldredge 

For a guided prayer prompt on identifying your own cannonball experiences:

An Ignatian Pilgrimage Week #2: The Injury That Changed Everything