One winter a number of years ago, I was filled with a deep discontent and longing whose aim I could not identify. After several weeks of being close to despair, it slowly came to me that I was fed up with prayer as I knew it. I didn’t want to pray anymore to my concept of God—I wanted to experience God himself.
Moses’ father took him to herd goats,
taught him ways of the wild.
I’m a closet hagiographer.
I know that sounds either like I’m admitting some deep, dark secret, or I have a hair ball, but I promise it’s neither. Hagiography is the study of the lives of the saints across the ages.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
That old hymn expresses my desire for always being attentive to my Father, His Son and Spirit—who I also am consistently wandering away from. Yet they are always “there” for me, graciously giving me “my space”, and mostly just waiting quietly for me to grow sick of going it alone, occasionally whispering or even rarely shouting when needed, in unceasing hope of my return.
In a given week as I sit one on one with various leaders, I hear many stories of desolation and consolation. It’s always amazing to me how a string of spiritual direction sessions can be so varied. However, each story is a genuine reminder to me of how unique these individuals are in the sight of God.
C. S. Lewis in his well-loved novel, The Screwtape Letters, poignantly describes the strenuous mystery of human spirituality. He does this by way of the character, Screwtape, a senior demon that offers the following advice to his demon-in-training nephew, Wormwood: