Jesus isn’t in the “I” statements
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The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, keep sound wisdom and discretion; let them not escape from your sight, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely and your foot will not stumble. If you sit down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:19-24)
Nowadays there is much made of discerning spirits and discerning God’s will (which are two different things), and opinions abound on the Internet. Discernment isn’t as much a matter of sitting in prayer waiting for a lightning bolt of wisdom to come. That too often is a psychological consolation. Real discernment is the product of honest conversation with God.
To recognize the true Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, first one must identify and admit to the other spirits at play. That’s where the honesty comes in and the importance of examining the day to see where your thoughts have been—were you talking at God or talking to Him? Would your thoughts or rationale for choices/actions pass the “love test” given to us by St. Paul in 1COR 13:1-13? Verse 1 in particular is important, for no matter how ‘right’ we think we are, if we aren’t ‘feeling the luv’ then we are just a noisy gong. 😊
Further along that line of thinking, look for how many “I” statements you thought or spoke during the day. Let’s say you decided to share information without asking the source first or get involved in a work project or church ministry that appears to be going poorly. Why? Is it because “I” think so-and-so needs this information? And deserves it? “I” can decide this? Spirits of Entitlement and Pride. “I” think “I” can help that ministry do better? “I” know best? Spirit of Pride again. You won’t find Jesus in “I” statements.
The problem is we are too comfortable with those “I” statements and so it can be difficult to give up. Hence, clinging to these we become quite good at rationalizing and justifying.
God, of course, needs no rationalization or justification. 😊
Jesus didn’t command us to manage our lives or those of others. He didn’t command us to make sure all goes perfectly as planned. The ‘right way’ of living as taught in the scriptures is intended to dispose us to living in this covenant God speaks of throughout the Bible. It is also the fruit of our living out that covenant due to God’s Grace and the Gifts of His Spirit at work in our lives.
What Jesus did command us to do is to love one another as He has loved us. Thus, our relationship with Him and others is the top priority from and under which all else flows. And if our relationships with others are strained (an honest fact-check of one’s life will show many are), then we can’t expect to change that dynamic unless we first change. We become the change agent in our life world for better or for worse, depending greatly upon our cooperation with God. Which leads back to those honest conversations and examining thoughts and actions for “I” statements. How often we want to either change a relationship or ‘know’ an action to take, but aren’t willing to do the prep work first? These daily conversations of simple honesty with God are the prep work. These form a discerning ‘habit’, in the process of which one distinguishes God’s voice, their own, and that of the enemy.
The ‘habit’ then is needed to be able to discern God’s will in the more important matters too. When people have a major choice to make, it is commonly recommended to them to use approaches similar to those laid out by St. Ignatius in his exercises. However, rare is it that the person is first guided to doing the prep work. In contrast, in the exercises, the retreatant may be discerning their life vocation or how to live out their vocation if already chosen (e.g. married), or some other major life choice. Before all of that, however, the retreatant experiences a major purging of their sinfulness and the beginnings of taking on this new ‘habit’ of examining their day for the wrong habits that need to change such as the “I” statements. This paradigm shift is just the beginning of a life of simple, honest, contrite and healing conversations with God. It is the habit necessary for indifference to self to then follow God’s will in all aspects of life. Without the ‘habit’ of honesty with God, too often people follow psychological consolations that ‘resonate’ and think it’s God’s will.
And while we’re admitting to God all that is me-centered, we might as well give it to Him fully in the confessional. In any relationship, intimacy grows through having those hard conversations of the heart, and so it is too with Jesus. Let’s continue to pray for all of our clergy and religious, especially Pope Francis, who continue to pray for us with and for us.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Peter Ch. 1:3-9)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. 😊