Love Can Only Look Back On Itself and Gently Laugh

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I’m in the middle of making a pretty big and important change down here at the Seminary. I’m changing my Spiritual Director. We’re required here as a part of our formation to have a priest (because we are studying to be priests, after all, but spiritual directors don’t always have to be priests) who we can talk to about our spiritual life, in confidentiality and total trust. It’s even recommended that we regularly make our Confessions to him because he knows some of the deepest parts of our lives and he can watch us grow and help us along the way. For me, a spiritual director is not someone who simply commands and guides me along the spiritual path, but he’s a man who walks beside me, and sometimes challenges me, but always out of love and a desire to see me become a man of prayer who is fervently in love with Christ. In other words, a spiritual director is a spiritual friend: someone who walks with us, shares with us, listens to us, and loves us.

During our first time together, although we’ve known each other for a few years now, he questioned me for about an hour about how I pray, when I pray, what I feel like makes a “successful” prayer, and what kind of judgments I make about myself while I pray. Needless to say, it was kind of intense and I walked out of there drained a little bit. But that’s not a bad thing. It was actually refreshing to know there would be someone in my life who could help me be that honest about myself. The second time we met he drilled me again, but this time about friendships: how do I make them, how do I keep them, why do I want them, where does God fit into those relationships? He assured me he was not trying to psychoanalyze me, but rather that he wanted me to see how our life of prayer is so much like making friends: it’s about meeting God as a friend, and letting God meet you as a friend. And it’s not always easy, but it’s worthwhile.

So now my spiritual director has me seriously thinking about what it means to call God a friend. So I thought I’d share with you all something I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Think of it as a kind of letter to an old friend:

You are my friend, Lord. But that doesn’t seem to get it right. It’s like saying You’re a friend of mine, or I count You as just another one of my friends. Of course, for me, to call someone a friend is a big thing. I would like to call everyone friend, but the reality for me is that a friend is someone who I feel I can share my life with, to communicate myself to, someone who will deal with my shortcomings and forgive my failures, while also expecting me, challenging me to do better, be true, live fully and honestly. No, not all my friends meet this ideal, for I certainly do not myself. Still, to call one a friend is to enter into that dear relationship of friendship. But I still don’t feel like the word friend is nearly deep enough to name who You are for me.

Beautifully formed is the gift of friendship as You have created us to seek, to explore, and to live, in all our struggles and all our joys. There is nothing like the intimate love that can be found in true friendship. There is no tangible ultimate goal that we can just skip right ahead to, but there still are many steps that do indeed lead somewhere. This somewhere has no limit, no definable, ultimate goal, yet friendship, real intimacy, goes in search of it. In this journey we easily and often feel lost, but if we only realize that if every step is taken with the utmost grace and simplicity, then we will see the truth of true friendship, a love that can grow without end.

So it is with love, which will always remain. We believe that faith will meet its end as You are so revealed to us that we can no longer deny, ignore, misunderstand You. Hope will find its end as we meet You face to face and so hold Your joy, which we ever hope for, in our hearts, in our minds, in the strength which is our perseverance. We will find our rest in You when we no longer need hope. Yet love will never be complete, even as we can no longer ignore You, even as we look in Your eyes, face to face, for love, for friendship, for intimacy will never meet its end, but can only grow deeper, can only look back on itself and gently laugh at how it thought it was so strong before, can only humbly await its further and further and never complete fulfillment.

So is friendship with You, Lord.

My relationships can only learn from this desire to simply sit in Your presence, yet I busy myself, I shy away. Lord my great prayer now is that I take this desire to look into Your eyes and try to see Your face a little more clearly in the faces of all those I meet today.

– Tim (ST)

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