“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe?…’ ‘Safe?” said Mr. Beaver … ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
(The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Aslin is a metaphor for Christ.)
About the same time today’s blog is scheduled to post, I’ll be boarding a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas, embarking on an expedition of education and exploration.
If all goes as planned, this first of four intensive retreats, with lots of study and work in between, will culminate with my certification as a spiritual director in September 2021. Excitement today will be as high as that airplane’s altitude.
What led me to this pursuit? There are undoubtedly more answers to that question than I’ll realize until I take up residence in Heaven. I have, however, identified several pivotal points in my faith journey:
- When my 5-year-old arm shot up at the end of a children’s church service after the teacher asked her petite congregation if anyone would like to ask Jesus into their heart. I was one of those eager kids who raised her hand whether she knew the answer or not, so I’d probably done so at the teacher’s invitation before. This time, however, was different. I knew in my little-girl spirit that something changed. I had no way of knowing then that this was the starting point of a life-long process of soul renovation.
- During adolescence, I developed a deep distaste for the disconnect between what I was told about being a Christian and how I observed Christians. Although it took lots of years of wrangling to come to grips with this, I realize that my often- unwisely-used discernment and criticism were actually the longing of my heart to live a fully integrated, non-compartmentalized life in tune with Jesus’ commandment to love my God with a full soul and all the strength I could muster; to love my neighbor—or those with whom my life intersects; and to love myself.
- During my 20’s, two traumatic events created huge crises of faith. On one level, I felt God had betrayed me. On another level, during some pain-filled years, I experienced God’s grace and became convinced God really, truly knew me and loved me with an intensity much greater even than my love for my little daughter. I realized in the deepest recess of my soul God knows my name and cares about me individually, a thought that never ceases to fill me with comfort, confidence and courage.
- During my 40’s, I was feeling what I’ve come to recognize as ‘divine discontentment.’ I set my first spiritual goal one New Year’s Eve, scribbling on a slip of paper, I want to learn to be a better pray-er. That goal changed the trajectory of my spiritual journey. For a season, I drug my weary bones from bed between 3:45 and 4:15 a.m. every morning in order to spend the first 60-90 minutes alone with God. My spiritual growth really took off during this intense season during which I discovered journaling prayers. It was, however, a physically exhausting regimen I needed to change after almost three years.
- In my 60’s, a couple years after retiring from a long government career, I was once again feeling ‘divine discontentment.’ I began volunteering at my church as a pastoral counselor and working with a Christian life coach, both life-altering experiences. The coaching process was so beneficial I started taking necessary steps leading to my own coach certification in 2017. Also, I was invited to become a member of my church’s staff and continue to work two days a week at Lake City Church.
- Approaching 70, one morning I said to my coach, “Jodi, I feel like God is trying to say something to me, and I just can’t figure out what.” “Have you ever thought about working with a spiritual director?” she asked. I wasn’t sure what spiritual direction was but was intrigued. While doing a personal retreat at St. Gertrude’s Monastery, I scheduled an appointment with Sister Lillian, and my first session of spiritual direction was one of those experiences that felt “just right.” I continued the practice with a brilliant woman Jodi recommended. Dr. Debbie introduced me to aspects of ancient spiritual disciplines, including contemplative prayer. For the first time, I felt as if my soul had found its true home. An educational pilgrimage to Spain led by my spiritual director was a life changer.
- Now, thoroughly ensconced in my 70’s, I’m leaving on a jet plane. I was sent off with a big hug, sweet kiss and blessing from my husband. Ron’s blessing is essential since this guy I’ve loved for more than 40 years has always been my biggest supporter and most trusted advisor.
While writing today’s post, I was reminded of the New Year’s spiritual goal I made the second year: I want to learn what faith looks like. After several months of reading books about faith, underlining scriptures concerning faith and listening to preachers expound about faith, one day it dawned on me. Faith is simply walking into God’s faithful character.
Today that’s what I’m doing. Only this time, I’m flying.
My hope and prayer are that as you read these words about my faith adventure, you will begin to examine your own journey. How does God want you to grow, live and love more fully within an integrated life of faith? I’m sure we’ll be ‘chatting’ more about this in the future…
P. S. I apologize this is such a l-o-n-g post! Promise a much briefer one next time!