This past Lent, I was part of a small group that went through the Ignatian spiritual exercises (using this book). There’s an image that we talked about (from another book called the Inner Compass by Margaret Silf) that I find myself coming back to again and again.
In chapter 2, Silf uses three concentric circles to describe our inner lives (our “inner landscapes”):
- The outer circle represents the “givenness” of our lives, the parts of our lives that we cannot change: our past, where we were born, our natural predispositions, our strengths and weaknesses. She calls it the Where circle.
- The second circle represents the parts of our lives where we have some choice. It is “where things happen to me, but I can choose how to respond to them” (Silf 21). Things like friendships, how we eat, how to discipline our kids. This is called the How circle.
- The innermost circle, the Who circle, is “the person God created me to be, my deepest self” (Silf 22). According to Silf, this is “dangerous ground” because the Who that we encounter may be completely different from the person that lives in the Where. She writes that in our Who center, “I will move closer to the God who dwells in my heart, and the encounter will challenge me in ways that I cannot predict” (Ibid.). And that can be pretty scary.
Most people end up living their whole lives in the second circle, in the How. I know that’s where I’ve been for most of my life.
I see something that I want to change about myself or how I’m feeling or how we’re raising our kids, and I change my behavior.
I buy a book. (A lot of books, actually.)
I study, I talk about it with my husband, I get advice from people I trust.
I go on a diet. I buy a gym membership.
I join a moms group. I join too many Facebook groups.
And it’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with any of the things I named above. It’s just that it gets old, you know? The cycle of seeing a problem, trying to fix it, and realizing that you’re right back where you started.
When we remain in the How circle, we simply travel to different parts of the How.
I recognize that there are many times in my life when I’ve been at my Who center. It’s those moments when I have experienced the fullness of time, when my desires line up exactly where God is calling me and I realize that I am exactly where I need to be.
My breakthrough happened when I recognized that the time spent in personal prayer, in traveling to my Who center and encountering God was what I’d been hungering for this whole time. That is when real change started to take place.
Guys, I cleaned up spaces in my house that have been piling up for months (years?) with the detritus of life (clothes that needed to be donated, papers that needed to be filed or recycled, kids’ schoolwork that I needed to let go of). IN LESS THAN 3 DAYS.
And I bought the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before anyone was reading it.
I have been able to play with my kids like never before. (And, if I’m being really honest, I’ve always found playing with little kids to be really tedious. There, I said it.)
I’ve been able to go throughout the day on less than 5 hours of sleep (not on purpose, trust me) and not take it out on my family. That, in and of itself, is a miracle.
So, so, so many good things are in store for you when you just decide to show up for God.
Know that you will not be disappointed.