God created us to know him, serve him, love him, though we do not physically see him. And yet he is unmistakably there.
The paradoxical presence of the Lord in our lives always involves mystery. Though we do not see him, he makes himself present to us in the real, concrete circumstances of our lives. He is intimately involved in history, including our own histories. Thus, our history is also a participation in Christ’s work of salvation in human history.
Sacred Scripture and the history of the Church teach us that the Lord God reveals Himself through historic events and situations. The eternal plan of God makes itself incarnate in persons, events, and the very real situations of our daily lives. This important truth and insight has important consequences in our spiritual journey. It also opens us up to deep and consequential insights into the meaning and process of spiritual direction.
When we look at Scripture, we never see God just appearing as he is and elucidating truths. God is not just an idea. He is known through an interpersonal experience which can result in the articulation of truths (for example, God knows me to my deepest core). Similarly, in our own lives, God does not simply appear to us, but encounters us in the circumstances we face.
“I am with you always….”
At some point in our lives, we made our faith our own through our awareness of what God was doing in our lives, and our personal response to Him. Faith comes through very real historical events. God is constantly “becoming flesh”, definitively in the person of Christ who identifies himself with every human being and sees the Father at work in all human events. The eternal plan of God makes itself present in the very real events of our daily lives.
Looking at Scriptural events like Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush or when Jesus meets the woman at Jacob’s well, God marks history in particular events.
When God acts, we can never exhaust its meaning. For example, the fathers of the Church reflect on the historical event of the burning bush as the Theotokos, the Mother of God who is being consumed, but not consumed by God. The meaning of the burning bush becomes richer and fuller throughout the course of history as God reveals himself.
When Jesus meets the woman at Jacob’s well, he reveals himself in history as someone who knew everything she had done (Jn. 4:39). He shows himself to be the Lord over time and history.
Because concrete events involve the Lord’s providence, they acquire an inexhaustible meaning, and so , we must be present to what is happening in our lives each day, because it is in life where God reveals himself to us.
This is why we understand the world as a sacrament and that everything he made is a reflection of himself.
How God reveals himself
If knowing, loving, and serving God is the meaning of our life, it also contains the meaning of time.
When God reveals himself through history, he does so gradually and progressively, through real, actual situations, circumstances, and events. He brings us deeper into our real life; he does not abstract us. He also reveals himself through our growing awareness. Initially, we may not understand what is happening in certain of life’s circumstances, but with faith and time, the Lord’s presence and action can become apparent. The Apostles did not initially understand who Jesus was nor what He was doing, but with time and growing familiarity with him across the span of their discipleship, his identity and mission became progressively clear..
Because Christ fully reveals the human person to himself, the emerging clarity of Christ’s identity in our lives will allow our own identity to emerge and our sense of it increase. The more we come to know Him, the more we know ourselves. We can’t make ourselves, we receive ourselves and our identity emerges with our interacting with God.
The role of spiritual direction
But what does this mean for our spiritual life and spiritual direction? How do we hold our experience with God?
First, our theological memory can help us to carry our past in hope, reading events in the sense of the canticles of Sacred Scripture. Like Zechariah or Mary, we can remember the events of our lives in the form of a recalling of the great events of life as a revelation of the Lord’s presence and action.
This theological memory plays itself out in a particular way in the liturgical year, in our communal and personal prayer Memory gives us our identity; what we hold onto gives our identity. Clinging to the Lord through faith, hope, and love engenders and protects our identity in Christ.
Additionally, by practicing patience and perseverance, we give God the space and time to work quickly, abandoning ourselves to him with total trust.
Mary is the greatest example of this. Mary “kept all these things in heart” (Lk. 2:51), reflecting and pondering the events of her life.
Some concrete ways we can hold onto the events of our own lives include journaling or keeping a spiritual diary. A spiritual lifemap can also be helpful in giving us a historic sense of what God is doing in our lives. A regular life of prayer and frequenting the sacraments also fosters a cycle of spiritual deepening.
Spiritual direction especially helps us to deeply reflect on the events of our own circumstances and histories. It helps us to learn to read between the lines of circumstances; to discern and distinguish what’s going on in our life. Meeting with a spiritual director can help us to listen more deeply and serving as a spiritual director can help others to listen more deeply to the events of their lives.
Are you called to accompany others spiritually as a spiritual director? Learn more about Divine Mercy University’s Spiritual Direction Certificate Program.