As a spiritual director, I understand that I must continually take evaluations of my own spiritual state. I also need to talk about what I find with my own spiritual director. This is not a painless task.
Sometimes, events take place in life that can wound a person’s soul so deeply that even when you seek to forgive them, profess to forgive then and even beg God to help you forgive them, they still linger, shadows of irritation and regret that just will not go away. Now I know the techniques that a person should use to let these shadows drift by. I have developed the skills of reframing the bad situations into manageable, if not even profitable experiences. Still, some of us have a personality type that just cannot get past actual or even perceived betrayals. These lingering shadows can even effect a person physically.
I have spent a lot of time searching the writings of the great spiritual directors of the past about this problem. Some have indicated that the best approach is to accept these lingering shadows as one’s thorn in the flesh and bear as a privilege. Others speak of developing a stronger spiritual armor that can ward off the attacks of these shadows when they come.
Without exception, they speak of these lingering elements as tools the enemy will use against a person. They will interfere with our prayers, disrupt our peace, and distract us in silence. They even can darken our joy and fill us with disquiet. There are times that these lingering distraction can provoke the emotion of anger. I am so grateful that the Lord has given me a gift of an alarm that will not let my anger respond as it used to respond. I do not let the sun go down on it.
In the past, there were times that I simply would seek to avoid the owner of the shadow thinking, out of sight out of mind. That strategy worked when I was younger and the damage done in the relationship could be overcome with a new situation, a new beginning. But now, the new beginnings do not work for people my age. The damage done in the relationship has a powerful impact on almost every aspect of my life. My spiritual director tells me now is the time for patience. Now is the time to let these lingering shadows know that the Lord’s stillness rules even over them.
So I continue to seek the sweet solitude of silence. I continue to seek the answers and awareness that comes with the practice of lectio and I turn to the spiritual exercises of Ignatius to guide me in recognizing the harm the lingering distractions can have. So again today I search for answers to this difficult dilemma.
And today, I believe I found another piece of the puzzle that will guide me to overcome the lingering that distracts.
“What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering. If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow. It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly, makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor. Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective, defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.”
— Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 47 AN EXCERPT FROM, Interior Freedom