Spiritual formation is an path unlike any other. Initially we think we are taking the initiative. We begin to engage more in prayer; we join a faith community; we read spiritual books. And it works. We feel more connected to God. We begin to trust that God might actually love us.
And then life happens. We suffer in some way. It is painful and disorienting. We discover that the God image we have constructed fails us.
There are three responses. The first and probably most common these days is to lose faith entirely. We conflate the failure of the image of God we have constructed with God and throw the baby out with the bathwater. The second is to try and recapture the earlier enthusiasm. This doesn’t work it is like trying to recapture romance. Once the projection has failed it cannot be put back together.
The third is to sit in the discomfort and wait. It helps tremendously to have companions in this time. If we are able to sit in this space long enough something new emerges. This time God takes the initiative. Ultimately we are led through our interior landscape. We discover limitations and blocks in ourselves which we never noticed before. We are incapable of increasing our faith or our love, all we can do is to pay attention to the obstacles when we see them
‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’ Rumi
It requires vulnerability and courage. But it opens us in ways that are quite unexpected and truly life giving.