What were your spiritual breakthroughs this year? As you look back on 2014, what did you learn about the spiritual life, about your Christian faith, about discipleship, that you hadn't known or fully appreciated? What insight from this past year can you share with readers? What books or articles aided these realizations?
I'll start by offering one insight from my experience. For me, the latter part of 2014 reminded me that I cannot go into prayer as a conjurer, as if pious phrases coupled with good intentions will lead, formulaically, to the answer I want to hear. I know these truths intellectually, but in tormented moments I find myself falling into the habit of thinking that my "success" in prayer will be affected by the rigor of my emotional investment and the depth of my phrasing. If I say it more seriously, He will be more interested.
God remains God. Though he is imminent, this past year reminded me of his magnificent transcendence. This past year reminded me that I have no power to call upon God like a valet. Steeped in a tradition -- the Ignatian tradition -- that emphasizes "God in all things," this year I have thought more frequently, at times delightfully, of God's incomprehensibility. And in times of painful honesty, I am grateful to know I cannot summon God as immediately as I sometimes wish. For what kind of God would that be? And would I even want that power?
Feeling God's absence forces me to re-examine what I've prayed for. The silence is a response, a question: Is this particular cause or petition really in the best interest of myself, of others, of the world? Is it truly ad majorem dei gloriam? Sometimes I notice that I have come to God like some patients now come to doctors: telling him what to prescribe. Just do this and that, God, and I'll be okay. But in the quiet space of a seemingly unanswered prayer, I recall that God's expertise sees things that I never will. Sometimes it's hard to admit, often frustrating. But if I notice my own thoughts, and acknowledge my own limitations, there is a freedom to be human, a freedom to not-know, a chance to be divinely surprised.