Change can shake-up our image of self, others and God. While we naturally fear and resist major changes, change can help us to grow and develop in ways that create more trusting and loving relationships. In her book Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction, Susan Phillips describes a man she calls John whose experience illustrates how even unwanted changes can yield unexpected benefits (80-85).
John had been a pastor at a conservative evangelical church for many years. At some point, political currents within the faith community changed and he was asked to resign. Unemployed, he turned to gardening and part-time factory work while he looked for another church to serve. His self-image suffered a big hit because he was strongly identified—by himself and others—as pastor. Moreover, it was painful for him to accept that his wife was now the main breadwinner in the family.
At his new factory job, everybody knew he was a pastor and they were not sure they could trust him. Many of these workers thought differently than he did, many had lived rougher lives, some were gay. Gradually, however, they got to know him and began to invite him to go out with them after work. Likewise, he slowly warmed up to them and a sense of acceptance and companionship developed. As trust built, the men began to seek out his counsel. John remarked how strange it was: “I am not a pastor of a church, but I feel more like a pastor than I did at the church.” There is very little God-talk, but “I listen to what’s in people’s hearts.” John explained that as pastor in his church he focused on what was wrong with people, their sinfulness or lack of faith that God’s light exposed. Now in his new role, he focuses on the good in people as God’s beloved children. Seeing them in this way has helped him to see himself in a more positive light as well.
Reflect on the important changes in your life. How have they been opportunities for growth in love and trust in your relationship with yourself, with others and with God?
Something about the start of a new year gives us hope -- a chance to start again, make better choices, set up new, healthy patterns for our lives. At least that is how we start out. We may think of all the little and big things we want to change in our lives and make resolutions, but then life happens and those changes often don't occur.
Some good discernment can help us with that. We know we can't change everything all at once, and God doesn't ask us to. Also, although we may want to change something, we may desire even more a habit or attitude that is holding us back from attaining our truest desire. Perhaps this something has a hold of us.
Discernment can help us go deeper. Ask yourself, "What do I really want to change in my life?" Then pause and ask, "What is under that? What do I really want to change?" Keep going as many times as you need to get to the core. It is only by going very deep that you can find out what you truly desire.
Another path is to share with God all the things you might like or hope to change. Then sit in silence and ask God to show you which of these is the most important for you to change now. Be open to what God might show you. It might even be something that wasn't on your original list.
Discernment involves going to the deepest place in our selves and being open to the God of surprises who dwells within us and beyond us.
Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP
Director of Formation
Sister Judith Benkert, OP
West-Southwest Vocations Promoter
Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP
Director of Vocations, East Coast-Midwest Vocations Promoter
Adrian Dominican Sisters
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Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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