I had followed a link to a blog posted by someone else. There, I read a post which was about their perception of their own spiritual path in life over the last few years. What struck me most forcibly was the absolute certainty with which they were walking that path and observing everything upon it; the author gave many examples of fruits, graces, prompts, inspirations and clarifications by the Holy Spirit (as she perceived it), all confirming that she was indeed on the right road and doing the right thing, in the right way. She was certain – and the depth of that certainty left no room for anything else. I have no doubt the writer was very well-intentioned but I was not reading her proofs in quite the same way as she was describing them.
And that absolutely certainty troubled me.
Now it is true there are times when the Holy Spirit gives us a little nudge of encouragement to let us know which path to take or to let us know we are going in the right general direction; and there are even those singular moments when there is a veritable flash of spiritual light. But what I read was the recollection of similar flashes over and over again, leaving no room at all for doubt.
And it is that ‘no room at all for doubt’ which made me run for the hills. When there is no room at all for doubt, where is the faith, which leads us on in hope?
I came away and had a good look at myself and concluded that this person was indeed fortunate if there was accuracy and truth in what she had written. For myself, the situation is very different – whatever path I walk, it is absolutely strewn with rocks of doubt and uncertainty; some are no more than pebbles, while others are practically boulders. I have to try hard to climb over them or at least find a successful way around them. I constantly look at myself and ask if I am doing the right thing, heading the right way, doing it all in the right way. And even in prayer, there is not always a confirmation or even so much as a nudge. Consequently, any spiritual path can often feel like stumbling about it the gloom, trying one’s best and telling oneself that even if we are getting it all wrong, the intention at least was noble. For me, it is a way less certain than the one I read about elsewhere.
O God, You are my God; for You I long.
For You my soul is thirsting.
This brought to my mind that any personal spirituality should not remain like an interior cloister, where we fear to let others in and sometimes where even the sunlight is unwelcome. A healthy spirituality needs to be an open spirituality. It needs firm foundations and it needs to follow good and robust examples; and above all else, it needs to be based very expressly on the values of the Gospel. And it needs to find its expression in community as much as in the interior life of the individual. Note well that I mean all this as a general observation and it is not intended in any way to reflect on the words of that other author, just to be clear.
I try hard to do what I have described above – and still I have doubts about it all.What if I am just wrong. What if I am doing it wrong. What if I don’t have the faintest idea what I talking about and writing about.
This ‘way less certain’ is the one I know – but that very uncertainty means that I am open to correction and to change; it means that this path is not at all closed to finding a new direction if that is where the compass leads. So far it hasn’t – but the option is there and, I hope, always will be.
Dear Lord, please lead and direct me – but please, too, preserve me from certainty along the way.