I want the power that comes with knowledge of things beyond me. And yet the only power I will ever have is how I respond to the feelings within me.
For all their centuries of scientific study and teaching in universities, the Jesuits emphasize the analysis of a situation is not the be-all and end-all of a situation. More important is recognizing evidence of the presence of God, beyond us, bigger than us, and infinite. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius doesn’t ask us only to think about various readings but to recognize what is stirring inside. That can be new ideas or using our imagination, but when those thoughts stir something inside, we are to sit up and take notice. We are invited to name that feeling. Admit it for better or worse. Then, we can have a conversation about our feelings with God. Are they invitations or temptations? Are they of God or of the spirit not of God?
Being the analytical type that I am, I printed a list of feeling words from the Internet. (There are several of them out there.) I keep it in the back of my journal to use during the Examen as a cheat sheet of sorts. Sometimes I will look at it, and the right feeling word will jump out at me. Sometimes the word stirs where I felt it during the day, even though I might have missed it at the time. Naming the feeling moves me from analyzing a situation and trying to control or resolve it, to identifying how I am letting the situation affect me and where God is calling me to be in it.
My cheat sheet allows me to see patterns in my emotions (Yep, I’m feeling insignificant again; what’s that all about?), and that becomes the launching point for my prayer. I imagine the feeling as a big blob of something that I can walk around and look at and sit with, and then I listen to what Infinite Love says about it. I don’t have to stamp it out or avoid it or embrace it or react at all. I just have to name it and notice it and discern if my feeling is moving me toward or away from the person God needs me to be.
Right now, my cheat sheet suggests I am very content. What would yours say?