“Keep noticing,” says Father James Martin, SJ at the end of his Daily Examen podcast. It’s an invitation to notice God’s demonstrative love in the events of our lives. It’s also an invitation to notice what we’re feeling physically and emotionally and allow those feelings to be heard. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, said he learned far more from his feelings than he did from his thoughts. These inner movements helped him discern when he was moving toward God and when he was moving away from God.
It’s not so easy to listen to what I feel. If I listen to my body, it might ask for more rest when I have so much to do. If I listen to the knot of anxiety behind my sternum, will I be chastised by the voices in my head or by God?
Sometimes I’d rather not hear what my feelings have to say. Often I wish they’d just go away.
But another invitation comes from God: Keep returning. Keep returning to me with what you notice.
Yesterday that invitation came in these verses from Isaiah.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!
Three things stand out for me in this passage. First, that the Sovereign Lord calls us to return to God with our noticings (that’s what it means to repent) and sit quietly with the Holy One who desires only to love us more and more. Second, God knows we will “have none of it” and run from this love which is offered and that this will leave us feeling abandoned and alone. Third, God will rise up and bring us home.
I remember being told that when we walk away from God, God just waits until we return. But the Holy One does more than wait for us; God rises up and shows us compassion. God finds the lost sheep, the rejected Hagar, the despised Zacchaeus, you and me.
That knot in my chest returns me to God. It won’t go away–pursuing me on its “swift horse,” and I don’t want to listen to it alone.
I take a deep breath and settle into quietness and trust. Back here with God, I notice that I’m not so afraid to hear my soul speak.
Let me not run from the love which you offer. . .
Keep calling to me
until that day comes when with your saints,
I may praise you forever.
—Soul of Christ Prayer
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Reflection questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:
- What have you noticed that has unsettled you?
- How are you tempted to run from the love God offers?
- How has God risen up to show you compassion?