Discovering God’s Paths

Rather than defining faithfulness as absolute conformity to authority and tribal identity, a trust-centered faith will value in others the search for true human authenticity that may take them away from familiar borders of their faith, while trusting God to be part of that process in ourselves and others, even those closest to us. Pete Enns, The Sin of Certainty, p206

After spending forty years in the pastorate and seeing the corruption, competition, and compromise first hand in three major denominations, I have concluded that we are deeply in need of a new reformation. I left one denomination due to the cover-up of a major fraud oriented scandal and a change in my theological understanding of salvation, was forced to retire from another due to being falsely accused of sexual misconduct (never officially charged-just not reassigned so I could be accused of being a bit biased), and as a member in the third I ceased to seek recognition of orders simply because I am tired of jumping through hoops in order to convince the powers that be (whoever they may be) that I do have God’s call upon my life. Boy that was a long sentence. Still, the church is the bride of Christ and will continue to await the return of the Lord and perhaps receive some needed plastic surgery to cover up the scars that have been self-inflicted. I still believe the church is the means through which we carry out God’s will.

For the last three years I have been seeking to understand what it means to seek God’s will. I finally found a definition that I can fully trust due to its biblical support and theological rational. (Quote) “God’s will is the vocation of every Christian, of every person. In every act of willing we should explicitly or at list implicitly be willing the glory of God for God’s greater glory.” I found this definition in my study of Ignatius of Loyola. I have also discovered that Ignatius put together a set of rules to help a person discern if a path is likely from God or not. These rules are very practical and take into account the reality of the existence and influence of an enemy of humanity and God.

In my own life I wish I would have come to find these rules for discernment sooner. It would have saved me a lot of grief, sorrow, depression, pain, and making choices I wish I would not have made. In all my theological training (and I have a doctorate from Perkins Theological Seminary) I was never given any aid or instruction on how to discern God’s will. Also, there is a great emptiness in how ministers today are trained in regard to engaging in spiritual combat and in dealing with the immaturity and hostility that thrives in most churches today. Even in the training I received to become a certified Spiritual Director I was not introduced to a way of discernment as helpful as I have found in Ignatius.

I love what Jules J. Toner, S.J. writes in his book on Discerning God’s Will; “We ought to take for granted that what the Lord of the whole world works in persons is either for the sake of giving us greater glory or for the sake of lessening our evil when we are not disposed to receive the greater glory (p.22).” God wants to work with us to not only our good but for the good of all creation. When we understand and work to be able to be available to God and to recognize His voice (the purpose of discernment of spirits) we are much better equipped not only to spiritually survive but thrive and bring defeat to our enemy.

I would (and do) encourage all who want to develop deeper confidence (not certainty which is idolatry) in their spiritual walk to seek out a spiritual director who is knowledgeable in Ignatius rules and also to read all they can get their hands on concerning this incredible gift this Spanish mystic has offered us. More on this later.

The Good Guidance of God

the-power-of-prayer

“Now surely I do see what an immense effect such a doctrine [of the Holy Trinity] must have upon life. It is no mere question for theologians, but one that concerns every living soul. Whatever is allowed by God’s power must be guided by His wisdom and urged on by His love. All that happens to me in life, the little worries and the great anxieties, the crises and the daily annoyances, the sorrows and the joys, the harms that reach me through the sins of others, the great crimes of history, the huge and devastating wars, the partings and loves and the whole cycle of human experience are permitted by Power, which is itself wise and loving. These three Persons determine my life, and, since I walk by faith, I must surely grow very patient in my attitude toward life. For how can I complain or criticize God’s Providence, since it all comes under that triple influence of Power, Wisdom, and Love? Under the guidance, then, of this mystery, I can walk through the valley of death or the more perilous borders of sin without loss of courage or hopefulness. Nothing can make me afraid. How these are separate, yet one, I do not know, nor can I reconcile in my concrete experience the claims of each. It is always a mystery, but a mystery in which I believe. Whatever Power allows on earth is designed in Wisdom and attuned by Love.”
— Fr. Bede Jarrett

Over the last four years I have learned the truth expressed in the above quote. After spending forty years of my life as a pastor, I was simply discarded. I wondered how God could allow this. Why would God not strike down those who mistreated me so?

But, in the end, after a failed suicide attempt, I can to realize that I was asking all the wrong questions from the wrong perspective and the wrong attitude. I had let the enemy lead me to believe that I was the one who had been wronged when in fact it was God. God had to watch what I went through. God had to watch me allowing myself to be deceived. God felt all my doubts, fears, hurts, sorrow and suffering with the understanding of how foolish and ignorant of His love that I was.

This world is not fair. It is a world under a curse. It is a world hateful of humanity for what we have done, what we are doing, and what we will continue to do. It is a world in which horrible and atrocious things occur ever day. It is a world lacking in compassion. However, within this world there is a God who understands, a God who works through others to bring good out of bad, to bring light into darkness, and give grace and mercy where it is needed most.

My life is still a struggle. I am still called of God to be his servant and I am more than willing to respond no matter what the obstacles are. I have been given new life, a renewed hope, and continuous consolations that give me happiness and joy. My personal, universal, wonderful, divine Trinity of Three that is One loves me and in the end will make it all good. For this reason I can help others understand as I myself proclaim, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ Julian of Norwich.