A life without God is empty, and the more we experience the emptiness within the more we struggle to give meaning to our existence.
In search for meaning we often engage in all sorts of unecessary activities that may not contribute towards our wholeness and beauty before God, but rather imprison us in a stressful and wearisome state. It is as if illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.
Yet, as Mother Teresa puts it: “It is only when we realise our nothingness, our emptiness, that God can fill us with Himself”. We come to the point where when we feel truly alone, a sense of being lost, a sense of inner emptiness, we realise we have unknowingly moved away from God. So, what do we do? We move back to Him.
One way to move back to Him is through spiritual conversation. Experienced spiritual director Luz Marina Diaz says spiritual conversation is not a debate, an intellectual or academic discussion on religious themes. Rather, through spiritual conversation we share personal experiences and practise the art of finding God in these experiences while paying attention to our emotions, desires and dreams. Beyond many of our conversations is a depth of personhood we often do not tap into. We are careful who we let into our lives and how far, and this means that sometimes, a person can go for days without having a conversation more meaningful than “How’s work?” or “What are you planning for your next holiday?” Nevertheless, there is a part of us that asks for more, it searches for meaning.
Beyond many of our conversations is a depth of personhood we often do not tap into
Spiritual conversation is the step beyond what we experience in our daily life into what these experiences mean for us and how they shape our life. Spiritual conversation dwells beyond the surface value of things and events. We seek to find God precisely in these things and events, and ask questions like “What is God trying to tell me through this hardship? What is God trying to show me in this relationship? Why does this experience trigger a sense of deep consolation within me?
Christians are called towards an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Sacraments and through Scripture. Yet spiritual conversation needs to embrace the whole of our being.
Take the case when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus addresses her personal relationships with past husbands, her ancestry, her physical needs for water and food, her identity with the Samaritan community, and the spiritual customs of her contemporaries (John 4:4-26). In other words, Jesus addresses the reality of her whole personhood.
Spiritual conversation thrives in spiritual accompaniment where a ‘directee’ converses in a spirit of prayer and discernment with a‘director’ or ‘trained spiritual guide’. Spiritual directors, who may be priests or a trained lay persons, play a mediatory role in spiritual conversation. They need to have the capacity for deep and humble listening. Rather than imposing ideas or suggestions, they help the directee discover the hidden presence of God in his or her life events and help them discern the will of God. “For our heart is restless until it rests in Him” (St Augustine).
Gordon Vassallo is an accredited spiritual guide at the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality.
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