Before Everything Became Automatic (And Clouds Were Still Tunics)

Young SWSIn my last post, I drew a connection between my mental fumblings (throwing the wrong things away, losing car key possession) and my living on autopilot mode. I want to avoid autopilot mode – a place where everything is automatic (not in the sense of the hit Miranda Lambert tune) and everyday tasks lack the full investment of my mind, spirit, and heart – but the only way to do that seems to be to confront what is occupying my mind.

So what is occupying my mind? It is indeed the big stuff: How I came to be a Paulist seminarian (now joyfully on pastoral internship year in Columbus); how I even came to be and stay (again, joyfully) Catholic. Am I where God wants me to be? Amazing things to truly and deeply ponder.

These are questions that no single advisor or spiritual director can answer for me. (A spiritual director by the way is someone who simply walks along with you as you reflect upon and grow in your relationship with God. Maybe look into it? More later.) I have to keep feasting on the questions myself. Well, not exactly by myself. This is Lent and I am a Christian, so you know…with God and stuff.

Predictably, my brief Lenten journey – 2015 edition – has already taught me that I do need some structure in order to make a good spiritual-prayerful go of all this.

What I am not doing: I hope the picture at the top right doesn’t make you think that I’m actually going to narrate my entire existence from year four or five-ish onward, reflecting tediously on every new Ninja Turtle action figure and every Blink-182 cover band. That’s what I might be thinking if I read about a guy taking account of his life and noticed a kind of old, but not that old (OK, maybe 80’s old) photo in the corner.

That picture is me before my first Matlock episode, my first root beer, my first turtle, and my first existentialist crisis. (Did you ever expect you could learn so much about a person and what they value from a single sentence?) I look at that picture and I think of how prolific an imaginer, synthesizer, and concept-connecter I was back then. As a kid I would lay on the grass by the playground – sometimes even without a helmet – and contemplate not what shapes the clouds were taking, but whether God used the clouds to cover himself up. Jesus had a tunic; God has clouds. IT REALLY MADE PERFECT SENSE.

I think that most of us are mystics of some form or another. I think I’ve always been a mystic searching for God’s voice and presence in the here and now. To keep with that cloud-gazing, contemplative flow, my plan going forward is to use a variation of the Ignatian examen (more on this later – we have all of Lent together don’t forget) paired with this, my spiritual journaling, to see what God is saying to me and trying to draw my attention to this Lent. It may be part of my life – past or present – or it may be part of someone else’s; or it could be, in all honesty, a late 90’s Blink-182 track.

God is cool like that.