I’m becoming wary of my false self and its admirable intentions. Now, when I think about doing something good, I ask myself why I’m doing it. Is it to enhance my reputation, bring personal gain, or help me feel good? Or am I doing it simply out of love for God?
When I entertain these questions, I feel as helpless as Phoebe in Friends. In one old episode, she tried unsuccessfully to come up with one good thing she’d done without a selfish motive behind it.
It seems impossible to do anything–even love God–without it benefiting ourselves. Yet nothing is impossible for God. So I ask another question: God, how are you helping me break free from the tractor beam of self and turning me toward you?
God answers my question. Awareness that there are two forces at work and questioning my motives have both been acts of God. Praying with those questions, as I am doing now, has been another.
As I sit with God, I’m reminded of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. In a similar vein, my false self continually asks Jesus, “What’s in it for me?”
I wait for his reply; it doesn’t take long. “Nothing,” Jesus says. “In fact, give away everything that props you up and come and follow me.”
“Jesus, you do know I have a book coming out.”
I’m sitting in my study. In front of me is Michael Cook’s painting of Moses and the burning bush, a batik from Nepal reminding me to walk humbly with my God, and a jar of creek water. My spiritual director used a jar like this once to illustrate that when we sit in silence and let life’s particles settle, clarity emerges.
I close my eyes and let go of my book and all the other things that clamour for my attention. I feel what it’s like to simply let Love breathe in and out of me.
Clarity does emerge. God isn’t asking me to abandon my book or cancel plans to promote it. God is asking me to sit in Love’s presence each morning and let go of what I carry. And as I follow Jesus into my day, he asks me to let go of it again and again and again so what I hold onto doesn’t unbalance me.
All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me. –a contemporary reading of Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation by David Fleming, SJ
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Love Mischief for the World
My friend Gail, who is a regular volunteer at the Wednesday Lunch Club, was driving us home from the weekend retreat I led. I asked her if she’d like to write something about the love mischief she and God are doing for the world. She said, “I don’t think I’m doing anything for the world.” Half an hour later, we were approaching Hastings Street in Vancouver when she started rummaging through the console for loonies and toonies. She rolled down her window, and the squeegee guy saw her. “How are you doing?” the young man asked her after she gave him a fistful of coins. I quickly realized this was not their first conversation. The light changed, she waved goodbye, and we drove through the intersection. My friend says, “I hope he makes a good living today.”