The Co-Author Relationship: God and I

Sunset at AssosDiscernment doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but in the context of our relationship with God. Discerning God’s will only makes sense if we have or seek a vibrant relationship with God. Whether we are trying to discern a major life choice, or live in greater conformity to God’s will, the best way to grow in that relationship and to become attuned to God’s voice is to spend time in prayer.

The title of this blog pushes this foundational principle a bit further: that we believe that God co-authors our life with us! If we believe that the Holy Spirit is directing our life, that God and I are “writing” our life story together, then it becomes even more important to spend time with God. Any time spent in prayer is important, but a quieter, more contemplative approach to  prayer will help us to learn how to listen to God in the light of God’s saving love. (More about listening in prayer later.)

One of the challenges of the Christian life is a temptation to try to earn God’s love, rather than trusting in God’s love. We don’t want to allow our discernment to be colored by this temptation. A true partnership, being a true “co-author” is a relationship of trust. Doing God’s will is not about proving ourselves, nor about trying to control our life and relationships. Instead, truly seeking to do God’s will is being like Mary, whose “yes” to God came from her ongoing relationship with God. At the Annunciation, Mary recognized God’s Lordship in her life, but she also recognized that her consent and her love were essential in collaborating with God’s salvific plan. She could only say “yes” the way she did precisely because of her relationship with God. Mary trusted God completely: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”

When we truly seek to live God’s will, we recognize that this includes growing in our relationship with God. A true attitude of discernment allows God to take the lead, to set the parameters to our story, and to invite us deeper into the great adventure of our life.

Pen_UncappedTo Journal About:

  • How would I describe my relationship with God?
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Partnering with God

kaleidoscopes-201644_1280I was recently asked to take on a project that I didn’t feel prepared for. I knew I had some skills to bring to it—namely, writing and editing. But the visual, artistic sense of design that the project required was completely beyond me. In addition, the project had technical requirements that I knew nothing about. So, I had to gather a team of people for the project.

My first days of working on this project felt like trying to pick up chunks of jello. I could never grasp anything concrete about it—although the chunks of jello were gradually being formed and then put together, the project felt completely out of my grasp. Everyone had a different vision of it, and we were all learning how to do something for the first time. Though I was working on a deadline, no one else had planned for this project and had to squeeze it into their own timetables. I had no assurance that we were going to finish it, never mind make the deadline.

Due to the remarkable people I worked with, the project not only came together, but came out beautifully and just on time. In the end, the project was not something I could point to and own, saying, “I did this!” Actually, I felt that I’d done very little; the beautiful result really came from the shared collaboration that we developed as a group.

Through this experience, I rediscovered two keys to collaborating on a creative project: 1) choose my creative partner(s) well and then 2) trust them.

These insights are even more true when I reflect on co-creating the “masterpiece” of my life.

1) Choose our Co-Author well.

We could try to “write” our lives by ourselves. But choosing to go solo is not only a lonely thing to do, it is also impossible for us to truly shape our lives on our own because so many things in life are beyond our control. Besides that, we’ve all run headfirst into our weaknesses; we know we need help. For the most important work of our lives, we want to have the best partner possible.

We may seek other collaborators as well, but it seems pretty obvious that choosing the All-Loving, All-Powerful, All-Good God—who loves us and always wants what is best for us—is the best choice we could make.

(Next post we’ll look at trusting our Creative Partner!)

God’s Storyview

rainbow809697_26431701-foto stoch-xchngOur loving Creator has revealed himself as Father. God has created a world that is exquisitely designed, beautiful, astonishing, powerful, and full of mysteries. This amazing and mysterious universe is where we live our lives, our stories. As we grow, we discover how our universe works—in its physical aspects (such as the rule of gravity), in our human nature, in the spiritual realm, etc. If we want to discover and live God’s story for us, if we truly want to co-author our lives with God, it’s helpful to understand God’s overall design. How can we tell what’s most important to God, and how God views his creation?

By listening to God.

God reveals himself in many ways, but most clearly in Sacred Revelation: the Bible and Sacred Tradition. This is where we can best find God’s view of the world he has created, his overall design for humanity, and the stories that he wants us to live. One simple way to describe God’s “storyview” is this basic premise that describes salvation history:

Our all-good God loves us and always wants what is good and best for us.

The spiritual art of discernment only makes sense in light of these foundational truths: that God is good, that God loves us, and that God always wants what is best for us. These fundamental truths give us important principles with which to shape our stories. In my next few posts, we’ll unpack them.

Pen_Uncapped

To Journal About:

It might be helpful to take a moment to take in this profound statement that is the foundation for any good discernment, allowing it to sink in.   

Our all-good God loves us and always wants what is good and best for us.

When I read this statement—to myself or aloud—what is my first reaction to it? What do I think? What do I feel? Do I believe it to be true?

God Dreams with Us, Not for Us

DSC03070One of the traps that we can fall into when we’re trying to discern something is to think that God has one precise and perfect way picked out for us, and woe to us if we take a wrong step. We mix up God’s knowledge of the future with God’s will, imagining that God already wrote the complete story of our lives, and that we really don’t have free will. That’s a pretty robotic view of human nature, and it’s far from the Church’s teaching about the human person. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers: 1704, 1705, 1711, 1731, among many others.)

1. God doesn’t abandon us if we don’t pursue his dream for us—he always loves us and continues to invite us towards a closer relationship with him, up to the last moments of our lives.

2. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and God is all-wise, so whatever God wants is a perfect fit for us. His dream for us is exactly what we want at our deepest core, we just don’t always know it.

3. God’s dream for us isn’t created apart from us. It might be more accurate to say that God dreams with us, not for us. With the Holy Spirit, we are co-protagonists in the story of our lives.

4. God values our free will so much that he invites us (not forces us) into a loving relationship with him. Similarly, he invites us to enter into his dream for us. We choose how we respond to God’s invitations. God respects our freedom, and is more than willing to work with whatever steps we take, especially when we are sincerely seeking his will for us. Even when our steps seem to be going in the opposite direction, God is able to turn things around in the blink of an eye. The cliché “God writes straight with crooked lines” totally fits here—although it’s not complete. It’s even more than that! God seems to delight in working with our littleness, even with our limitations.

(We have a powerful reminder of this as we approach Christmas: God delights so much in working with human littleness that, when he took on human nature, he was born a little Baby.)