I’ve been a very dutiful person. I have wanted to know what is right and true and to live it out. And there’s a real value in this kind of serious discipleship and faithfulness. But I think there is a downside. Have I and have we become dutiful Christians versus joyful Christians?
Let’s explore this in the context of prayer. What kind of prayer does God really want from us? Well, God, of course, wants us to spend time with Him, but it also matters the spirit in which we spend that time. I think that God longs for us to have our hearts in it.
While we all have times where we have to make ourselves pray, ultimately God wants us to want to spend time with Him and enjoy spending time with Him. Do you like spending time with people who are making themselves spend time with you? I don’t, and I think it isn’t God’s favorite either.
The Ignatian Exercises rocked my world in this. I as I prayed and encountered Jesus I discovered that I wanted to be with Jesus. I loved Him and loved being loved by Him. I wanted to care about the things he cares about, and love the people he loves. I found my experience of God transformed from a demanding taskmaster to a God that I wanted to be with and who met me daily with comfort, challenge, encouragement and joy. I would hear Jesus asking me “What do you want?” and I found myself answering that what I most wanted was Him and to give myself to Him.
I am blessed to be surrounded by Christians and be a spiritual director to Christians who take discipleship seriously and have attempted to make their lives about following Jesus and give their lives to the body of Christ. I am truly grateful for that. However, sometimes I see much more duty and obligation than I see joy in the Lord.
One of the biggest things I do in spiritual direction is to walk with dutiful Christians as they grow in having desire and joy become more their motivation. I don’t want them to throw out serious discipleship, but instead want to help them find a new motivation for their serious discipleship, desire and joy. The Ignatian Exercises are designed to do this and Jesus Himself always seems to call people to deep desire and joy as they pray through his life. Maybe that is why I love the exercises so much.
I have a long way to go in having desire and joy be my motivation. But it is a journey I am glad to be on with the Lord. It is easy to fall back into duty, but Jesus loves it when I step into desire and joy.
“Dale what do you want?” “I want you, Jesus.”
“Give me only your love and your grace. That’s enough for me.” -Ignatius of Loyola
© Dale Gish 2019. All Rights Reserved.