It’s been a wonderful beginning to the Spiritual Direction Internship with the Sisters of Saint Benedict. I feel right at home in the topics for lecture and conversation. The class make up is quite diverse within the Christian tradition, which is something I have always appreciated and loved. There are some Methodists, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, and Catholics. We have different backgrounds and traditions, yet we all come with a desire to enter deeper into the heart of God.
During the first night we learned that every student, including the facilitators, would be sharing their stories of faith in the second half of each night’s session. We are given 20 minutes to share. At first I thought that sounded daunting. Even though I’m a preacher, the idea of talking about my own spiritual journey sounded challenging, not to mention listening to everyone else’s story for 20 minutes a piece.
This has actually be a blessing to me. It is an opportunity to hear what God has been doing and continues to do in the lives of others in various Christians denominations. It’s wonderful to sit back and be amazed by God. Perhaps that’s an early lesson of this program; be amazed by God. Be amazed by what God has done and continues to do.
The teaching portion of the program appropriately begins with the history of spirituality within the Christian tradition. We have peered into the lives, stories, and quotes of saints and mystics of the past. From Antony of Egypt to the desert fathers and mothers; Basil the Great, Augustine, and Gregory the Great; Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen; Francis and Clare, Julian of Norwich and Catherine of Siena; Teresa of Avila; John of the Cross; and even Martin Luther and John Wesley (I’ll probably write more about Luther and Wesley next week as we discuss them in the context of spirituality and mysticism).
It’s astounding to see the development of the mystical experience of God throughout the ages and how God has spoken and continues to speak today. I have received the sense that I am in the line of a great line of spiritual writers and thinkers who experienced something beyond themselves. I realize that Church history is not for everyone, but I love learning this. I don’t sense a dead history of the past at all, instead I sense a continually movement of people seeking God more and more deeply in their lives.
Some lived in community, others all alone in a cell. They dotted the landscape of the deserts and cities. There were monasteries and convents. There were visions and revelations. All wrestled, questioned and cried out to God. Every single person we have studied and listened to as they shared their faith stories, have a strong desire for God. All we have to do is show up, be present and listen to the God who is already present and has been present for all time and beyond time.
This is God I’m starting to meet. May we move deeper into the heart of God together.