Friday, June 3, 2011

Waiting for Consolation

The founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, is perhaps most known for his rules of discernment -- that is, his advice on how to make decisions.

For him, it's all about paying attention to the consolations and the desolations -- the things that bring you life and joy, and the things that bring only dryness, or despair.

The thing is, even when you're living a good life, doing the right thing, etc., you have those dry days.  Those not so fresh moments, to quote a commercial.  And it was Ignatius' intuition that those can be the times that you most doubt the decisions you've made and might want to make some sort of change. You feel uncomfortable, uneasy, whatever. Of course you want to make a change.

But, says wise old Ignatius, desolation is not a good time to make a decision. Because you're not in touch with your best self or probably with God.  Basically, the Holy Spirit is ATT and you've had a dropped call.      So you just have to wait until you get out of the dead zone and the line will click back in.

Someone in my community was preaching about this today, and I had the thought, maybe this isn't just a propos of jobs or career decisions. Maybe it works with relationships, too. Like, there are some days or months when we just get sick of some people in our lives, right? Maybe they were irritating to begin with, or maybe we adored them, but in this moment, we just want them to BEGONE.

I've certainly had that experience at times, and yet in the moment I don't necessarily say to myself, hey, remember three months ago when you really enjoyed your conversations with them?  And that's part of the desolation -- you lose perspective.  All you see is the right now, and it feels like that's going to go on forever.

It's like, have you ever been sick, and it was just a nightmare? And then you get better, and you look back and it seems like no big deal at all?  It's all about perspective. When you're in the horror, it's really hard to imagine it ever changing. And then once it does you can't remember how bad it felt.  

So maybe that happens with relationships, too. We drive into dead zones that are not necessarily justified by he said/she said or an itch or anything else; they just happen.  And we have to just be patient and try to screw up everything by saying or doing something drastic in the middle.

Just something I'm mulling over...


Pinky McLobster said...

Fr. McDermott,

I found this post very helpful. I have been struggling with desolation, and the hardest part is just holding on and not making a bunch of drastic changes, just so I can feel like you have control over something. Thank you for posting this, it gives me some hope to hold on.

Mike Bayard, S.J. said...

Jim, I can relate. I am in a desolate period, although not so much with relationship as with my work and my vocation in general. Ebb and flow in life. I know things will get better.

With that said, I do believe perspective is really important. When we are in the throes of desolation it is like looking at a Monet painting close up. All we see if blobs of color and we cannot make anything out. Taking two or three steps back we can see the beauty of the picture. We can see all the intricacies.

Perhaps the old Ignatian adage is worthwhile, step back and remember the past consolation, sep back and remember in those relationships, where the grace has been present in the past.

rustyrusticator said...

Fr. McDermott,
Right on! Waiting for some discernment and being willing to deal with desolation has kept me from doing some really ill-advised things, and while I'm struggling right now with a relationship which looks as if it has permanently soured, it's very useful to chill out, take a breather, and focus my efforts on something I know is good for me--cultivating my relationship with the Lord. My nodding acquaintance with good old St. Ignatius' exercises has taught me this, and it keeps my life in balance during these crummy desolate times. Bless all you Jesuits who keep his legacy alive for those of us in the daily trenches. And even though I'm pretty much just picking my way through the Exercises on my own, so far I've learned this much: Desolation doesn't have to lead to desperation! That much IS under my control.

No disrespect intended, but Jesus would never cut me off mid-sentence, guzzle beer, storm out over a trifle, or hog the remote! So even though it's nearly 11 PM my time, I'm going to head off to 24 hour Adoration about ten miles from me, and spend some time with the true Lover of my soul.

Shelly said...

Here is something which came to me at the end of a particularly dark time. When the pangs of desolation intrude, I go back and re-read this to remind myself of the "bigger picture".

"I searched
and He found me.
I turned my back
and He returned love.
I walked in the dark
not knowing He cleared my path.
I stood in the rain
while He held me and dried my tears.
I was alone and silent
and He whispered to me.
And when I was lost
He led me back home.

He called my name
and I cried when I heard His voice.
He breathed His Spirit upon me
and this wind warmed my soul.
He reached out His hands
and I fell into His arms.
He welcomed me back to Him
and I entered His door in joy.
He placed his hand upon my head
and I smiled at His touch.
He has never left me alone
and even in darkness I can now see His light."

Anonymous said...

Fr. Jim,
Hello. "tabasamu" from VYou here (Well, no longer of VYou, actually). I shared with you back on Apr 12 that I was going through a period of desolation; a period of doubt, and intense fear of no longer having faith. You said you'd pray for me.
I can report that I got past it some weeks ago.
I'm not sure why. I certainly didnt intensify my prayer or faith life. I didnt stop it either though. I just hung on.
I still "do what I hate", but now I CARE more about doing it, as before I was just numb.
Ive also moved on from VYou. I wonder if you have too.
I was at a niece's wedding this weekend, and during a very emotional toast from the best man, he said, "... Never forget where you came from, and never forget where you've been!". That second part instantly choked me up and I had to fight from sobbing! (and feeling foolish). I need to remember where I was, before I let God back into my life. I need to remember the pain and the darkness. The hopelessness. I need to hold on to hope now, because "Hope does not disappoint". God bless you Jim!