My Lovely Littered Life

by Elouise

the-lost-drachma-byjames-tissot-overall-brooklyn-museum-wikimedia_orig

The Lost Drachma, by James Tissot (French, 1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum

Spiritual formation is an up and down journey for me. An unrecorded map of possibilities, choices, decisions, practices, good intentions, getting lost and forgetfulness.

I’m a fairly organized person, though not allergic to clutter. When it comes to spiritual practices, however, it’s difficult for me to remain on task. Sometimes I grasp at practices that promise structure for my spiritual life. My intention? To practice them regularly, for as long as it takes for me to arrive. A finished product!

Despite my best intentions, I slack off, or life intrudes and interrupts. Not as new spiritual practices, but as circumstances that demand  time and energy. Things I can’t ignore.

This year is already full of interruptions I can’t ignore. Especially health events that derail and distract me from what I thought would be regular habits and disciplines of my retired life.

To complicate the picture, I frequently compare my spiritual formation with the real and imaged spiritual formation of others. For example, if I meet someone who has kept a prayer diary full of requests and answers for the last unnumbered years, I feel at least delinquent if not guilty.

It isn’t as though I’ve never tried things like this. I have. And though I know my spiritual formation isn’t just about what I do, I’ve often felt uneasy about myself.

One of the most wonderful gifts of this past year was a simple realization: my job isn’t now and hasn’t ever been to grow or orchestrate my spiritual formation.

Rather, my job is to go with the flow! To listen and respond with my heart to what’s happening in and around me. Which is, of course, a way of being active, not passive. And also more in keeping with my personality and the way I interact with my surroundings.

Instead of feeling guilty about yesterday, I listen for what God’s heart might whisper to my heart today. Not according to a pre-arranged script. Instead, God deviates regularly, sometimes drastically, to seek me out. Just think about the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep (Luke 15).

Today, interruptions are my new normal. Instead of trying to run away or ignore them, I’m learning to listen for God’s voice and the movement of God’s Spirit in them. How do they invite me to respond to life as it is right now?

My life remains littered with practices I thought might be the solution to my spiritual formation. It’s also littered with scores of ways God’s Spirit has interrupted me, trying to get my attention. Not in order to destroy me, but to invite me to God’s table set and waiting for my thirsty heart.

Sometimes the table includes strangers who might help me. Often it’s a table at which I did not plan or want to sit, especially not with ‘those people.’ Always, it’s a table that leads me to my next spiritual growth opportunity, whatever that might be.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 October 2016
Painting of The Lost Drachma found at 4catholiceducators.com