…but what breaks the impasse is that Christ wants us to trust that He is constantly with us.40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E. Dahill
and on day 7 of the journey she writes:
Our Lord wants to have the soul truly converted to contemplation of Him and all of his works on general.40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E. Dahill
And it brought to mind the question, the title of this post, that was asked at the beginning of a lecture I attended for the Ignatian Spirituality Course a few years ago. My immediate response to the question was an unequivocal :
Yes, of course He does.
But imagine my surprise when my friend next to me responded with an equally unequivocal:
No, He doesn’t.
So, all is not necessarily as straightforward as it immediately seemed to me. The lecture was about discernment and moved to talk about group discernment in the church. It is not this lecture that I particularly want to discuss here, but the question posed at the beginning of it:
Does God get what God wants?
In the reading for day 6 of the journey, Julian describes an oscillation between spiritual consolation and spiritual desolation, where in one moment she was filled with joy and the sense that nothing could ever separate her from God, and then in the next she was:
…abandoned to myself, oppressed and weary of my life and ruing myself, so that I hardly had the patience to go on living…40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E. Dahill
If we look at the state of the world today – we only have to watch the news – and if we were to take at face value the fact that we experience spiritual desolation: separation or movement away from God, that we are sinners, that we do not always trust that He is constantly with us in every moment of our lives, and that we are not always truly converted to contemplation of Him and all of His works in general, then I can see why my friend expressed the opinion she held.
Ignatius says of the reasons for spiritual desolation:
The principal reasons why we suffer from desolation are three:
The first is because we have been tepid and slothful or negligent in our exercises of piety, and so through our own fault spiritual consolation has been taken away from us.
The second reason is because God wishes to try us, to see how much we are worth, and how much we will advance in His service and praise when left without the generous reward of consolations and signal favors.
The third reason is because God wishes to give us a true knowledge and understanding of ourselves, so that we may have an intimate perception of the fact that it is not within our power to acquire and attain great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation; but that all this is the gift and grace of God our Lord. God does not wish us to build on the property of another, to rise up in spirit in a certain pride and vainglory and attribute to ourselves the devotion and other effects of spiritual consolation.The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.
In Julian’s description of her oscillation between spiritual consolation and desolation, we might see the third reason at work. Ignatius is clear that while God does not cause spiritual desolation, He does allow it. We also see it in the book of Job:
He allows the enemy to walk among us, making his whispering, trying to draw us away from God, to profane Him. And, like Job, we have a choice, we have free will. The catechism of the Catholic Church says of freedom:
As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning.Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1732
We might consider that making the Suscipe Prayer, or our own version of it, is binding our freedom definitively to God.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess.
Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it.
All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.
It is choosing to surrender ourselves completely to Him: it is a once and for all choice and an everyday choice. It is as Julian describes, complete trust and contemplation of Him.
I have described my rudimentary understanding of God being outside of time and space before, in a visual analogy. I have another: imagine time lapse photography of a seed being planted in a flower bed and its growth is filmed. Lets keep to the theme and make it a sunflower seed, like my inner child was planting in the garden with Him. In normal time lapse photography, we would see the sunflower grow quickly, and everything else in the flowerbed too. In my imagination of God’s eye view, it is only the sunflower, the one He is focusing on, that is changing in this film. What is my point? If He is looking at me, in the intimacy of my relationship with Him, He sees all of me, throughout eternity, all at once in this one eternal moment. If this Sunflower seed is growing towards Him, if this surrender to Him and contemplation of Him occurs at any point in eternity, then He is there now, experiencing that, and He has what He wants. It is me, who is limited in this present struggle with my own resistance and failings, that may not currently believe that He gets what He wants, because from my frame of reference in the here and now, He is not getting what He wants. But every temptation is an opportunity to choose Him, and every time I choose Him, I am moving towards Him, and giving Him what He desires when He invites me to be with Him. In the whole, big eternal picture, is it not what He desires? for us to use our gift of free will to choose Him? to bind our freedom definitively to Him? As this is true for me, is it not also true for every other soul He gazes upon?
I guess that, in spite of the turmoil, war and the pain; the sinfulness, violence and brutality of humanity; everything that nailed Him to that cross, when I look at Him in prayer, and when I am still and allow Him to look at me, I hold on to the hope, courage and faith to say that yes, I do believe that ultimately, God does get what He wants. He told Julian after all that:
It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian