Are we not all seekers? I believe that all of us can name one thing in our lives that feels lacking. We may be longing for meaning or purpose, some tranquility or some renewal in life. Most often whatever we’re seeking has to do with inner peace, which comes from God. As St Augustine famously said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
When our souls are restless, we usually blame life. It seems like life is playing a trick on us. As a parent of two young children, I often feel this restlessness. The joys of parenting can sometimes feel too few and far between. The whining and entitlement drive me mad and I find myself less able to control my emotions, and resentment builds. Resentment of what? It’s really not toward my kids; it’s toward life, toward this parenting thing. I either become nostalgic for the childless season before this or for the next season when life will be “easier”. I’m sure God is amused by my thoughts. My prayer essentially turns into me whining, I want what I don’t have! And as I write this I realise that my children cry the same thing… However, one morning in prayer, as I reflected on this season in my life, I found my spirit rising. I realised that my spirit was bigger than the worries and challenges of parenting. My children were just trying to make sense of life in a developmentally appropriate way. I could have compassion for them. My spirit felt freer and I realised I could choose joy. As my spirit broadened, it put things into perspective. My parenting was no longer a monster or life’s prank; it was a gift. Many of life’s difficulties can appear to be out of proportion with our ability to handle them. But I can create a wide enough space within which to move. It no longer weighs on me as the space has widened. My experience was a feeling of Ignatian indifference. This isn’t to say that I don’t want my children to be better able to control their emotions or that I don’t wish parenting was easier. This indifference puts things into perspective. I can choose joy instead of frustration or anger. I can entrust life’s mess to God. My spiritual director asked me, “Can you forgive life for being life? For being messy?”
I didn’t need to be saved from my life’s challenge. The salvation was already within me. Consider the story of the woman with the haemorrhage who touched Jesus’ cloak. Jesus saw her and said, “Your faith has made you well.” She was healed. It wasn’t Jesus who healed her; her faith did. In fact, she already had faith within her. Jesus merely helped her recognise that the healing was within her. She was seeking something she already had.
The Jesuit theologian Peter Fink once said that hope is getting out of our false narratives; reframing and reimagining the real. When we do that, we access deeper resources for freedom that are already within us. Entrapment, on the other hand, is when you run out of internal resources and you don’t allow yourself to reimagine the false narratives. In that moment of prayer, with the grace of God, I was able to rewrite the false narrative in my head about my life and parenting. I found myself, as Ignatius would say, “at a balance.” That was my salvation. And I know I’ll need to rediscover this truth again and again.
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