January 25, 2019

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Teresa Venatta

Spiritual direction: ‘Who are you, Lord and who am I?’

I have always been drawn to the anecdote about St. Francis of Assisi which states that a brother observed him in prayer and heard him say, “Who are You, Lord my God, and Who am I?”

These two evolving reflections were foundational in my examined faith journey, and the spiritual direction relationship became the ideal place for me to explore these questions.

The ancient practice of spiritual direction provides an open and sacred space where the directee can “talk out” their spiritual questions and life’s joys and challenges with a trained spiritual director. The Holy Spirit is always the “third chair” in the room and the true guide of this relationship.

The question, “Who are you, Lord?” invites the exploration of our unique image of God. Rooted in our own personal life experience and faith tradition, who we believe God to be is a good starting place.

When given the space to reflect in spiritual direction, our concept of God can shift from something we “believe in” to a loving Creator with whom we can enjoy a personal and intimate relationship.

Our image of God explored in relationship to personal experience and with the guide of tradition and Scripture allows God to keep revealing the deeper mysteries of mercy, grace and love. We can begin to know God and actually feel divine unconditional love and acceptance.

When we encounter God in this generous and caring manner, we can then move on to St. Francis’ next question with openness. The question, “Who am I?” often enough begins with the obvious ways we self identify—our jobs, our families, our traditions, etc. When given the space to reflect on this in spiritual direction, our identity can shift from these externals to who I am in Christ, as created in the image and likeness of God.

Our human identity can be explored in relationship to a loving God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. God’s mercy becomes the endless and eternal place to take our personality, experiences and life choices—both positive and negative. Gradually, we can learn to trust the challenges, wounds and failures of life as much as—if not more than—our supposed successes.

The question, “Who am I?” becomes more raw, authentic and in the long run, affirming. The recognition that we are all “loved sinners” invites us toward real growth into who God has uniquely created us to be—our eternal selves.

Ultimately as we soul search the questions of God and self, we can find freedom from external expectations. The safe space created in the spiritual direction relationship provides the forum to explore our lives from a more God‑centered perspective.

The questions, “Who are you, God?” and “Who am I?” move us on to, “Who are you calling me to be, God?” The door continues to open to growth and relationship. Our Christian call to more fully love God, self and others becomes more possible. As a result, our worship becomes more authentic and our evangelization more organic.

If these questions of St. Francis excite or challenge you, maybe this is the nudge toward spiritual direction, too. The opportunity is there for all.

(Teresa Venatta is a spiritual director and discernment companion within the Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. She can be reached at spiritualdirection@archindy.org.)

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