In last week’s blog post, Christianne stated that one of the reasons the practice of spiritual direction was so seminal to her journey was because her spiritual director reflected God’s gaze upon her. This struck a cord with me by way of the opposite. I have had my share of glaring stares not like the ones we all experienced in junior high because our clothes were out of style, but with those stares of disapproval that have a way of telling us we have fallen out of favor with someone, or worse, with God. Unfortunately, this can happen with one piercing stare.
In the last decade I have had varying degrees of deep sadness over several dark nights that took place in my life. Up to that point and for most of my adult years the spiritual life had become a marathon of unceasing spiritual calisthenics and the more I performed, the emptier I felt. Though I was taught that salvation came by way of God’s grace as a certitude, I still felt myself falling out of his graces proportionate to my ability to keep up with the moral code (…that morphing moral code that keeps recalibrating depending on our religious address). This growing division I had experienced became my own personal monogram for self-condemnation partially because my context for seeing God’s grace was gravely small. Yet, it also became a doorway through which I started to see the need for meeting with a spiritual director. I will call her sister Anne.
One thing that will always stand out for me during those first visits with sister Anne was in her smile. No matter what I said, it was as if she were standing on a higher ground of grace, peace, hope and love that was calling out to me. Her stance became the staff that parted the Red Sea from the shore of despair to the shore of experiencing the goodness, truth and beauty of God in my life. Sister Anne’s ability help me see God’s activity in my life was transcending moral code, doctrine, wounds or answers that were subject to her opinion.
I began being touched by this benevolent Mystery we call God through prayer, scripture, books, play and nature, and even in film. With the help of my spiritual director I started to see over time that even the worse of my personal failings had became my most treasured gifts and the crucible by which I would experience God’s loving gaze. This piercing love…this pearl of great price, this buried treasure and the hidden Christ within me has been shredding the veil that had blinded me from the Divine Indwelling through all my years of striving. I do not know much about the mysteries behind these scriptures and yet I have experienced these true gifts of salvation even if only in the smallest increments. Amazingly, this can happen with one piercing gaze.
In the words of Richard Rohr:
“How can I be more holy?” We don’t have to make ourselves holy. We already are, and we just don’t know it yet. In Christian terminology this inherent holiness is called the Divine Indwelling or the gift of the Holy Spirit. The awakening of the True Self in God is the essential, foundational, and primary task of all religion. Thus authentic religion is more about subtraction than addition, more letting go of the false self than any attempt at engineering our own True Self. You can’t create what you already have.
We become the One we gaze upon. We are, eventually, just like the God we worship. This reciprocal gaze is the True Self, perfectly given to us, and always waiting to be perfectly received. It is so dear and so precious that it needs no external payoffs whatsoever. The True Self is abundantly content as it is”.