This post is based on Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
Ignatian spirituality has a way of flipping upside down everything I thought I knew about faith. For years of classes in the Catechism, ethics, and theology, the focus was on clearly understanding the Catholic worldview. This was right and that was wrong. The answers were clear. Follow the “do’s” and avoid the “don’ts” and you are good to go. All of that works great—until my life is the ethical case study in question. Then things aren’t quite so clear. Figuring out where the trail of love begins and the reach of sin ends can be quite confusing. And that, ironically, is right where St. Ignatius wants me to be.
Rather than having us sit comfortably on pat answers, Ignatius challenges us to seek a healthy confusion. Yep, seek confusion, not clarity. That sounds crazy. In a world that regularly pits one side against the other, Ignatius says to sit in the tension. If the answer comes too easily, it is likely suspect, and we may want to look again. Why? Because until we sit in the healthy confusion of grappling with our part of a sinful situation, we haven’t made the answer our own, rooting ourselves in it. Until we sit in healthy confusion, we haven’t honestly admitted our motivations or what inhibits acting in response. Until the experience of healthy confusion, we haven’t found where God is calling us.
As I go through my Examen and note the parts of my day when I feel negativity, disdain, anxiety, or condemnation, I beg in my prayer, Why did I do that?, Where is that coming from?, or What am I going to do about that? I admit that despite all those years of study, I don’t have the answer. I need God to show me. I am confused about how to live in a sinful world without participating in the sin itself. But it is easier to admit my confusion before God than it is to fake clarity we both know I don’t have.