Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
The Presence of God is the very origin and wellspring of life itself. It is no wonder then, that to draw near this Presence is to approach the most fertile place in existence, and to draw away from it is to move in the direction of non-growth, which ultimately leads to death.
A lot of what Jesus had to say about the kingdom of heaven had to do with how things prosper and bear good fruit because of their proximity to God. To be close to Jesus, the true vine, is synonymous with growth, and conversely, spiritual growth in our lives is a sign that we are living in the realm of God’s kingdom.
It is possible however, for any of us to stop growing in our faith. We find ourselves on a plateau of spirituality, assuming that this depth of relationship we experience with God is all that the Christian life has to offer. But thankfully, the Lord has made this conclusion an uncomfortable one for us. More often than not we feel restless in our spirits as we pine for an experience of spiritual life that is greater than the one we presently have. And the fact that we hunger for more is the very evidence of the Spirit’s activity in us.
Before growth occurs, God often instills in us a deep desire for change. This sets up a momentum for growth that continues to thrive long after the initial spurt. Many saints have identified how desire for God leads not only to satisfaction, but often to an even greater experience of desire. Hungering and thirsting for a deeper relationship with God then is a sure sign that a person is truly in spiritual direction. It is the outreach of the soul for its next stage of maturity. And to simply have this desire for growth is to participate with divinity.
The Jesuits begin their prayers by asking for the particular grace they wish to receive each day. A common grace to ask for is the “desire to desire” God. The logic here is that since it is God who first places spiritual hunger in our hearts, it is appropriate for us to desire such a desire. The gift of longing, once received, assures the heart that it will be led to the object of its desire, simply because the divine grace is now present to seek it.
Julian of Norwich, a 14th cent. mystic, once heard a word from the Lord that helped identify this relationship to the God-granted desire within her. In one of her many “showings,” the Lord revealed Himself to Julian saying,
“I am the ground of thy beseeching. If I caused you to beseech, will I not also grant you the object of your beseeching?”
The desire by which Julian was led to seek God was also the evidence that the object of her desire was within reach. God caused her to long for union with Him, and that longing was the God-given assurance that it would be fulfilled.
Consider the spiritual desires that you presently experience, and reflect how God has placed these within you in order to cause you to seek Him. Our deep longings, far from revealing inadequacy, can be welcomed as a precious gift, a token of what is to come in their satisfaction. It is the faith that we apply to longing that allows such hope to turn into certainty.
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Jan 2006)
For Group Discussion:
- Is the experience of a spiritual plateau a familiar one for you?
- Are you aware of any spiritual longing which might be growing within you, or places of restlessness?
- Do you feel an invitation from God to participate with this movement to change?
For Prayer: I offer a prayer for the grace I desire in this day. I pray in faith with the longing of my heart to be closer to you. Grant me growth in my life in you.