As a child, I always felt uneasy about saying in the Act of Love “I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul….” Yes, God was important, and I was supposed to keep on the good side of that important person. But my bike and dolls were very high priorities, and I wasn’t at all sure that I loved God above those things; certainly, I did not love God “with my whole heart and soul.” Today the iPad and earrings have replaced the bike and dolls, but other than that, not much has changed. So how do I pray with this embarrassing situation.
As an adult, I used to begin prayer with a line from a psalm: “You are my God, the God of my life.” One day I realized, with a jolt, that the words were not true. (There were those earrings and the iPad, you see.) After some fumbling, I recalled Thomas Merton’s advice to never say in private prayer what you don’t mean. A few days later I began prayer with the scary truth: “You are not my God.” Then I was quiet for a long time. And felt closer to God than I had in a long time. It was like holding something back and then finally getting around to talking about it with your spouse—and then realizing how precious your relationship was.
I wonder if Merton’s advice to be honest with God may help as we assess our IVC experiences of the past year and discern whether or how to continue the work we’ve been doing. What do I really want to say in talking with God about this? Besides the delight in this year’s IVC experience, can I share the times I felt embarrassed or disheartened or angry—or found it impossible to “find God in all things”? I suspect that having this conversation with God will be different for each of us. It may even be too personal to share in a blog. But I think someone far more important than this writer is waiting eagerly to hear what each of us has to say.
Rosemary Jermann is a Spiritual Reflectors for IVC St. Louis. She is an adjunct faculty member at Saint Louis University and also serves as an editor and contributor to Review for Religious.