Search for Meaning

by | May 22, 2020

The desire to find meaning in the middle of so many changes, is natural and healthy. In this short post, Dan Johnson offers a story from Ignatian spirituality and a simple prayer as a way for new meaning to be shaped.

These past two months have shown just how difficult it is to be living with a major readjustment to what we call “normal”.  The loss of lives, mobility, and gatherings is real. The frustration is real, too, as we live with the grief of missing loved ones and isolation while simultaneously holding out for the vaccines and conditions that will bring relief.

One of the mystics in the Christian tradition, Ignatius of Loyola, shared some wisdom gleaned from his own story of grief, loss, and isolation. One day he was a rising military leader with plans for success and visions of honor. The next day he found himself with a shattered leg and fragmented dreams after a battlefield encounter with a cannon ball. While in recovery, he imagined regaining full strength and returning to his triumphant life! After days of such fantasies he noticed he felt spent and despondent. Other days Ignatius would read about people moved to provide kindness and service for the sake of others. He also read of the life of Christ and would imagine being a part of those stories. On days like these, he noticed a deep sense of lingering satisfaction and peace.

From these experiences, Ignatius grew to believe that at our cores we can be moved by the transcendent, the Sacred, God.  This spiritual experience altered the course of his life and gave him tangible assurance that he really could move in a new direction. It reshaped the meaning of his life. The ongoing encounter with the divine affected his source of significance, the stories he shared, and the people with whom he shared them. It changed the meaning of his life.

One of the ways Ignatius experienced connection with the transcendent, with God, was in a simple daily prayer that reflected on the events of the day.  Following is an adaptation of it that I find helpful especially now:

  • In the evening, I start with a few deep breaths and relax in the belief that God is moving and active in life today.
  • I reflect on the past 24 hours, recalling a moment of love or compassion. I linger there.
  • I consider how that experience could be a taste of the transcendent, of the very movement of God’s own Self.
  • I finish with a few breaths of gratitude.

May you find a way to notice the sacred, God, in the realities of this time. May that experience be like that of Ignatius’ and provide you with meaning you need to live fully in the midst of transition.