In “The Spiritual Life” by Evelyn Underhill, we find the following excerpt: St. Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He wanted to be a clever and appreciated young Jewish scholar, and kicked against the pricks. St. Ambrose and St. Agustine did not want to be overworked and worried bishops. Nothing was farther from their intention. St. Cuthbert wanted the solitude and freedom of his hermitage on the Farne; but he did not often get there. St. Francis Savier’s preference was for an ordered life close to his beloved master, St. Ignatius. At a few hours’ notice he was sent out to be the apostle of the Indies and never returned to Europe again. Henry Martyn, the fragile and exquisite scholar, was compelled to sacrifice the intellectual life to which he was so perfectly fitted for the missionary life to which he felt so decisively called.
In all these, a power beyond themselves decided the direction of life. Yet in all we recognise not frustration, but the highest of all types of achievement. Things like this – and they are constantly happening – gradually convince us that the overruling reality of life is the Will and Choice of a Spirit acting not in a mechanical but in a living and personal way; and that the spiritual life does not consist in mere individual betterment, or assiduous attention to one’s own soul, but in a free and unconditional response to that Spirit’s pressure and call, whatever the cost may be.
In spiritual direction, we listen closely to the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes, having a companion helps us listen more intently or in an unexpected way. As I meet with Pastors and Ministry Leaders, I find simply listening unlocks blocks and foggy areas as I ask careful questions.
At the beginning and and end of sessions, I try to stress the importance of fully creating the conditions in which the Holy Spirit can work in the person’s life. Finding ways to de-clutter our lives is more difficult than it may first appear. What spiritual disciplines do you employ to create space for the Holy?