I have loved Young Life’s idea of “relational ministry” for 40 years now, and I have focused on the horizontal relationships between leaders and kids, on friendships, on strong families, on the importance of small groups, etc. Those are still very much strong values that I order my life around. But this past year as I have done the Ignatian exercises and finished a class in Soul Formation -- intended to help my faith become more integrated into all areas of my life -- I have found a deeper relationship with the living God to be life-changing.
We have all formed unhealthy patterns from the past, ways of relating to the world and to people in relationships that leave us feeling less than our best selves. We become attached to outcomes and spend a lot of energy trying to control them, getting caught up in my world and essentially spinning in my narcissism. As I work to break unhealthy attachments, there are two practical things that are different for me now.
I start my day immersed in a deep container of God’s love. I start with what Ignatian calls “the gaze," and I meet the gaze of one of the members of the Trinity. This is not an encounter with a God who I want to ask favors of, but a God who loves me. Me! Who wants to help me uncover who I am meant to be and help me untangle from negative patterns and who promises (and more importantly longs) to be with me throughout the day as I encounter the world. When I start knowing I am in an endless spring of love that can overflow from Him to the world, I am ready to go.
The other practical step is to continuously turn towards God throughout the day when I am feeling rattled or unsure or starting to spin on my issues. I often turn my body physically in another direction to face God, or at least I turn in my imagination. I again reconnect to His deep love, then move forward in my day. I find myself doing this multiple times a day, each time connecting to His deep love for me, and this resets me.
Working on this process day after day has changed me and attached me in deeper ways to a healthy attachment and loosed the attachments to unhealthy patterns. Because we are experiencing ourselves to be deeply loved by God, we begin to recognize an inner freedom that is beyond what we ever thought possible. We can handle enormous amounts of success and failure without losing our identity. We can loosen our grip on the things we have been attached to -- money, success, some way we had to come to see ourselves or relationships or our ministry -- and receive them as gifts without being overly identified with them because they do not define us anymore. We find we're able to love others deeply and unconditionally because we have faced ourselves -- the darkness and the light -- we found ourselves to be unconditionally loved by God. We are able to love and lead with abandonment and freedom because we have nothing else ultimately to lose.
- Anne Lider