Spiritual direction at the end of the world (4)

What God is waiting for is not a right conclusion to a matter but for our suppleness in falling into His hands for Him to work in us.

Benedicta Ward, Discernment: A Rare Bird

Where shall the word be found, where will the word

T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Spiritual direction at the end of the world

There are all sorts of helpful pointers to how to live in the face of concerns about ‘the environment’. “Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (see this).” “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for what kind of world you want.” (Anne Lappé) 

Jem Bendell offers four areas of ‘deep adaptation’ agenda. (See also the 2020 revision of his paper, p. 21ƒ.)

  1. Resilience: “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…”
  2. Relinquishment: “people and communities letting go of certain assets, behaviours and beliefs where retaining them could make matters worse…”
  3. Restoration: “people and communities rediscovering attitudes and approaches to life and organisation that [have] eroded…”
  4. Reconciliation: “how we reconcile with each other and with the predicament we must now live…”

Resilience asks us “how do we keep what we really want to keep?” Relinquishment asks us “what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?” Restoration asks us “what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?” Reconciliation asks “with what and whom can we make peace with as we face our mutual mortality?” (p. 23)

All that sounds to me like a spiritual agenda (i.e. to promote the flourishing of life in all its fullness). The Exodus comes to mind and the post-Crucifixion-proto-Christian community.

Perhaps spiritual direction is no different at the end of the world. We do the same things: listen, mirror, provide an opportunity for the here-and-now encounter with God, and help to discern the movements of the spirits. The well-being of the directee is measured in the degree of their “suppleness in falling into God’s hands”.

But when directees talk about grief and anger, fear and anxiety, shame and confusion, love and compassion, maybe we can bear in mind that there is something larger at stake than our own little lives within which these feelings may find a context.

Albert Einstein said something like this: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” A legion of voices offer solutions. In a world of uncertainty, where the plans we have to save the world are making things worse, spiritual direction is the opportunity to listen to a Voice not our own. At its best, spiritual direction creates, curates, cares for a space in which this Voice can resound.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

Is 55.8
Snow on grass
Snow on grass (photo by Julian Maddock)

2 thoughts on “Spiritual direction at the end of the world (4)

  1. Dear Julian
    Your profound End of the World series has had me in deep thought for the best part of this morning. You have put into accessible language much of what I’ve been sensing but couldn’t articulate, and indeed a whole lot more. I will probably have more to say when we next meet, but I was enlivened by the empowering paragraphs in the third blog encouraging us to look after our own souls, and corners of the world, in creative and sustainable ways. Thank you for the thought and care that’s gone into this relevant series.

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