I know I've vanished. I may end up taking a hiatus from the blog, or going private - drop me a line if you'd like a password in the event that I do. I did finish that project, and it turned out well - computers are not playing nice with blogger, but I'll post a picture some time. For now, I've just dropped in to share a passage from In the School of the Holy Spirit, which the book discussion group at my parish is reading:
God's will, and the inspirations of his grace, obviously often go in the opposite direction from our immediate tendencies, in the sense that our tendency is often toward the desire for selfish comfort, ease, laziness, and so on. St. John of the Cross tells us, in a celebrated passage:
"Let the soul apply itself ceaselessly not to what is easiest, but to what is most difficult . . . , not to what pleases, but to what displeases."
He is not wrong to say this, in that context. But we should not interpret his maxims wrongly, or take as a systematic rule for discerning God's will the principle that in any given situation what he asks of us will always be what is most difficult. That would make us fall into an exaggerated ascetical voluntarism that had nothing to do with the freedom of the Holy Spirit. We might even add that the idea that God is always asking us for what we find most difficult is the kind of thought that the devil typically suggests in order to discourage people and turn them away from God.
God is a Father, and he is certainly a demanding one because he loves us and invites us to give him everything; but he is not an executioner. He very often leaves us to our free choice. When he requires something of us, it is to help us grow in love. The only commandment is to love. We can suffer for love, but we can also rejoice in love and rest in love. It is a trap of our imagination or of the devil to picture a life spent following God as something imprisoning, in complete, constant contradiction with all our own desires, even the most legitimate ones.
Five years ago, I wasn't ready to read this. I am frustrated that I've spent so much of my life at idle speed, running in circles, even headed straight backward. But God knows I'm made of pretty poor stuff, and is there to draw me along the path at the halting speed I'm capable of. Today, this year, I needed to read this. Maybe you did, too.