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The Never-Ending Process of Spiritual Growth

August 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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The Process of Spiritual Growth

The Lord (Week 8 of 23)

He who had lived in darkness was suddenly flooded with light that, pouring in through his eyes, dazzlingly illuminated everything within him. Then Jesus taught him to adjust himself to the new brightness both within and without: to perceive in the natural light also that other, holy light which contact with the light of the world had kindled. Jesus inflamed the man to a single blaze of light; first his eyes caught it, then his heart and blood, and finally that which the Lord calls “the soul”: that state of readiness for God and his fire. — The Lord (Part III: Chapter 1, Paragraph 21)

I don’t know about you, but on a daily basis I feel like a forgotten stepchild, just waiting and waiting for this divine lightening to strike me. I’m like a kid standing out in the pouring rain, head tipped back, tongue stretched to its ultimate limit, jaw aching in a desperate attempt to receive just one glorious drop of water upon my tongue.

But it doesn’t come.

I’ve met people who have described to me the moment they were “slain in the Spirit.” They claim it changed their entire lives. That they’ve never been the same. Their stories sound so much like what I imagine in the above paragraph. Like the blind man, these people were flooded with light, souls blazing with a desire to serve.

I have yet to experience such a powerful moment. In my longing, I have convinced myself that those who experience this instant transformation also experience a blanket of peace; complete trust; security.

Not me. I pray and I pray and I wait and I wait. And often I still feel alone. I read and I learn – my head is full of knowledge – but after 20+ years of faithful discipleship, my heart is still aching for that “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

And I suppose I may never experience that lightening strike that imbues me with complete and unquestioning faith. But I’m trying to be OK with that. Call me twisted,  but it comforts me to know that St. Peter didn’t experience it either. Jesus was right there with him; they walked together, talked together broke bread together; and yet, Peter still had questions, doubts, fears, distractions. He seemed full of them at times. Side note: Don’t you sometimes wonder if he was ever jealous of St. Paul? Did St. Peter wonder, “Why wasn’t I thrown off my horse? Why didn’t God just slam my soul with an instant and complete knowledge of Himself?!”

God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, knows what He’s doing. Over the years, He has allowed me to grow in faith without any sort of immediate gratification, certitude or infused knowledge. This road has taken time. And sometimes it seems to have produced little fruit. No matter. He has a plan. And I’m in it.

According to St. Claude de la Colombiere, the way to find peace is to seek virtue with all our hearts. But he does admit that the path to virtue is long and rigorous.

“Virtues are barely acquired after much labor, and are quickly lost by idleness” (The Spiritual Retreat, p. 5)

“Something always remains to be pruned away, even after a life of a hundred years and more, spent in religion” (p. 5)

The fact is that our lives were given us that we might use them to prepare ourselves for our ultimate purpose – heaven. All those trying times, those alone times, those empty times? We should consider them great gifts to show us that we were not made for this world. If I am seeking that drop of water, it is only because I was made for union with God. Until I achieve that end, I will never be truly happy, and will continue to struggle for peace:

But if any one come to me with confidence bearing his cross, and despising all things for Me, he it is that knows how vain and fickle is all worldly consolation, and he rejoiceth more in detesting his sins and in a victory over himself, than the whole world and its useless and false joys. (p. 16)

Rather than pine for some lightening-bold experience, I must detach myself from the world and love God above all things. I can do that. Or at the very least I can try. Again. And again. And again. So what if I wasn’t slain in the Spirit? So what if my faith has grown only in fits and spurts over the years. So what if I’m still enduring a sometimes painful pruning process. However slow and painful the process, it has gone along at exactly the speed at which God decreed…and I know there is a reason for it all.

According to the Venerable Charles de Foucauld,

God sometimes allows us to be in such profound darkness that not a single star shines in our skies. The reason is that we must be reminded that we are on earth only to suffer, while following our gentle Savior along a dark and thorny path. We are pilgrims and strangers on earth. Pilgrims sleep in tents and sometimes cross deserts, but the thought of their homeland makes them forget everything else.

Have you ever taken a long trip? A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of flying to Alabama, after not having flown for over five years. I was amazed at the speed of flight. It seemed I had no sooner received my pretzels and a tiny glass of Diet Coke, than we were taxying to the terminal. By contrast, traveling by car can be tedious.Road trips tend to drag on, often  filled with screaming, fighting, pushing, shoving (kids, am I sharing too much?:)). Between bathroom breaks and bickering, sometimes it seems we will never reach our destination. But for all the messiness of a car ride, the trip offers a beauty that I didn’t find in the air. Road trips are filled with memories, lessons, scenery, and growth. The road might be bumpy, but often we have the company of loved ones to soften the blows. When it really comes down to it, I’m thankful to be living my life in a car. Faith is hard. Growth can be tedious. But the lessons are beautiful. The company is sweet. And home looms just over the horizon, as a beacon, lighting the way.

Reading Assignment:

Part 3: Ch. V-VIII

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you ever had an instant conversion experience of any kind? If so, we would love for you to share it. Otherwise, think of several benefits to the struggles you may encounter through a lifetime of spiritual growth, and share some of them here.

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read More: http://spiritualdirection.com/topics/book-club

For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • paul diemert

    While visiting a bookstore at a Byzantine monastery, I asked for reading material to help my prayer life. A brother in the bookstore immediately handed me the book, “The Way of a Pilgrim”. After reading it twice, I decided to try prayer exactly as the pilgrim had learned in the book. I didn’t have any idea of an encounter with the Holy Spirit, but He totally surprised me, and things have been changed forever.

    Since then, I have read from multiple sources, there is nothing we can do to produce such an encounter with God. However, I think very few have tried a herculean attempt at prayer without ceasing as described in the book, “The Way of a Pilgrim”.

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