Hearing Our Divine Purpose©

(The Spiritual Blog For Those Who Don’t Need One)

(SERIES #1: The Path of Holiness)

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it, when thou turnest to the right hand, and when thou turnest to the left.’ Isaiah 30:21

What on earth does my subtitle mean? Why write a blog for those who don’t need one? Well, “needs” and “wants” are different. Most readers of my works, are helping professionals: people trained and qualified to guide other’s wholesome growth. Generally, these pastors, therapists, spiritual directors, educators, and human resource practitioners want these ideas to search out reminders of principals that support their efforts to further others’ well-being. In what follows, I’ll repeat three basics for hearing our divine purpose – or anything else that’s critical to a well-lived life: prayer, specifically contemplative, and its reverential; the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit; working occasionally with a trusted, capable sounding-board or guide. Most of my narrative describes the third point since this may be where the majority of us begin that “hearing” process.

Hearing Through Contemplative Prayer and its Reverential Life

Years ago, as described in my autobiography (Joyful in the Silence), then again in Can You Simply Trust (both@ Amazon.com), I outlined what it means to pray contemplatively. In essence, we are raised to that upper room about which Scripture tells, lifted “above” or beyond time, thought, and our ego-centric state.

In this deepest prayer, even long after we’re done praying, we can “hear” something of spiritual importance. In dreams at night, in reveries, as we wash dishes and prune branches in the garden, we may get an intuitive sense of minor or major issues about which we’ve prayed or other problems that have confounded us.

These Aha!” moments could be unrelated to our lives. However, expanded awareness during deep prayer now somehow accompanies us through time. Some might think of this as a Presence that goes with us during our day, directing normal life. As Isaiah noted, that Presence directs us, saying, “Walk ye this way, to the left, to the right.”

Let us never underestimate the value of all sincere prayer as a way of hearing what’s righteously in our heart of hearts. However, again, let’s also never forget that sometimes what we “hear” is unwholesome. We’re not, for example, listening to actual agents telling us to harm others or ourselves! If you hear audible voices, get help.

At any rate, to me, contemplative prayer and the values and practices of its life can amplify intuitions, inspirations, and awareness of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Although really first in importance, I add the Holy Spirit’s Gifts second because usually prayer, meditation, and substantial conversion can “prove, “express, make true, etc. – the will of God. Such unfoldment generally requires deep prayer, meditation, study, and the transformed mind described by St. Paul. (Romans 12:2-3)

“Hearing” The Gifts of the Spirit

Any and all Gifts of the Holy Spirit infuse us with an aspect of God’s character. However, the Fruits of the Spirit bring us into His very Presence.

In these brief paragraphs, I’ll focus only on the Gifts from Which we receive one or more of God’s qualities. To study that, check out any solid article on the topic. I enjoyed Sam Storm’s ideas on “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” (on Google). He describes such Gifts (and attributes) as wisdom, courage, counsel, and others.

For instance, consider the council. People with this Gift, even when very young, tend to be sensible, practical, and careful. They’ll show good judgment and generally, left to their own devices, choose wisely. Perhaps their older sibling is less deliberate and could realize their baby brother or sister solves problems smartly. They may turn to them for advice, perhaps envy or admire them.

With some children, elders know they must repeat cautions endlessly.

Those exhibiting counsel need little direction despite perhaps being younger and less experienced in a matter. With the third Gift of counsel, a child may spontaneously offer useful solutions for sticky family or school problems.

For instance, one girl’s classmates turned to her for help when troubled. As a teenager– then all through life– she received (and succeeded in) jobs carrying weighty supervisory responsibilities. Of herself, she said,

“Ever since I was little, others have trusted me with their worries. Helping even those I don’t know is deeply satisfying – it somehow brings me joy. I love being useful in my own small ways since there’s so much else I can’t do.

Don’t ask where I got or learned this capacity. Always had the knack and the love of being a sort of guide.”

(3) “Hearing” Through The Trustworthy Sounding Board

Our highest wisdom tends to stay hidden during the quick fix or formulaic, often hackneyed discussion. Easy, unsolicited advice is typically ignored. Yes, a chance remark, a billboard slogan, or a weekend seminar can stimulate answers.

However, we’re talking here about long-term true learning. Over our varied seasons of life, we’re discovering, intuiting, who we actually are in our heart of hearts and what we really want, will, or must do to be complete and wholly ourselves. It’s our divine purpose, our reason for being, that a trusted, qualified sounding board can help us uncover.

Yes, as an adult, I’m uncommonly self-directed and independent. Yet, that’s not always been the case. As should be clear, it’s from a vantage point of positive experience with both in-depth therapy and periodic spiritual direction that I write these next paragraphs. If today, I feel very much my own person, it’s because I’ve had, and sometimes still ask for, help.

Speaking personally, I’ve always sought out an intelligent, deeply trust – worthy other with whom to have occasional talks. My grandmother was my first trusted sounding board. Later –and these days— infrequent, yet consistent-spiritual direction seems productive. My leadership practice also offers “dialogue sessions,” the confidential sharing of truths between people. (Somewhere or the other, Thomas Merton called dialogue “an exchange of selves.”) The process empowers and reinforces whole-seeing. Clarity alone is a form of “hearing.”

I do not suggest spiritual direction (quite unlike therapy) is for everyone.

One should be emotionally ready, open enough, sufficiently elevated in thought, and certainly steady enough to sustain – deserve?- that rare bond. Whereas (and I could be wrong; most therapists work with almost anyone who walks in their door), the more unstable, unhinged the patient, the more therapy is needed. By contrast, a spiritual director has other requirements and tends to evaluate the intentions, character, general stability, and readiness of a potential client.

These days, some call spiritual directors “companions.” I don’t.

In fact, to me, these professionals are more like the modern-day version of the 3rd Century Christian “Abba.” We read about these elders in, say, Sr. Benedicta Warad’s Wisdom of the Desert Fathers (SLG Press).

The Abba was considered a spiritual father. Like our birth fathers, he was an authority figure– not a friend, not a “traveling companion.” In turn, he regarded the monks in his care as sons. (Women were not initially nuns in a monastery.)

Because the Abba lived, experienced God in a deeper way than most, and was thought to be highly advanced in sacred matters, his role with the monks was “…vital … literally life-giving.” (Wisdom of the Desert Fathers, SLG Press, Xiii)

The Abba’s visits were special; his words were prized. Thus, monks were expected to meditate on each teaching, pray over it, study it, then live it—put it into practice. Obedience was normal, demanded. If someone was wilful, closed, haughty – couldn’t or wouldn’t humbly accept correction or imparted wisdom – he was reprimanded, perhaps ousted from the monastery.

Nowadays, if a spiritual director senses a client is unable or unwilling to receive guidance, will they terminate sessions? I wonder.

As noted, I believe spiritual direction is unlike therapy, although both relationships (as with the 3rd Century desert fathers) could result in a “re-parenting.” (See, for e.g.., Dr. Eric Berne’s works for more on this idea.)

In early adulthood (described elsewhere), therapy was invaluable to my wholesome growth., and also to admit what, to me, is a spiritual calling.

Years later, spiritual direction – including one or more lengthy spiritual retreats –advanced what I’d long known were my life’s purposes.

You can read in my autobiography how, but for my grandmother ( who left our home when I was five), no one in the family ever understood or supported my spiritual sensibilities. Like so many, my most sacred sentiments were unwelcome.

Too eager for approval and belonging, I kept quiet, so I was largely at fault. For moving my own divine purpose “underground.” Although, almost every child and young adult wants the approval of his or her closest others.

What Blocks Spiritual “Hearing”? 

If, in childhood or even later life (e.g., adult trauma,) we’ve been ruined or feel shut down by outer influences, our inward listening instincts may be hindered. Normally, it seems hearing our inner life is inborn – just a spontaneously natural part of a plain, simple being. So what are some –  no, not all—blocks to heeding what 1 Kings 18 describes as our “still, small voice”?

Almost any force could overpower our ability to hear what’s going on within.: Ultra-authoritarian, abusive, suffocating., rejecting, or manipulating voices, be they parents, siblings, teachers, – whomever. It’s not hard to brow-beat a child. As noted, ordeal of any sort can impair our attending to what is essentially silent, intuitive, inner (emotional or intelligent) stuff.

In Sum:

It seems those who thrive in commerce, their personal lives, or almost any endeavor are open to ideas from within themselves, from others, and from the world at large. Almost anything inspires them. In marked contrast, the blocked, misguided, perhaps heavily “defended” tend to shun hearing whatever might inspire them to make positive, life-affirming choices. Both inner and outer “hearing” are vital to a life well-lived.

Discerning our divine purpose seems to me what Isaiah meant by “the Highway of Holiness.”

Hearing in this way happens little by little. Each insight builds on itself, reveals more, and the whole thing actually seems a grace. In short, it’s my bias that contemplative prayer, a reverential life itself, spiritual direction, perhaps therapy, and use of whatever we have of Gifts of the Holy Spirit can give us “ears that hear.”

Unfortunately, some of us are wary of listening to anyone. We’re too busy to read, study, or engage in lively, idea-rich discussions; we may feel overwhelmed with the duties of each day or completely other-directed: chasing other’s approval, trying to live up to standards and values set by someone else, social media, authority figure with their own agendas.

For whatever reason, we do not attend to our inner life.

The question remains: how able or willing are we to grapple with the requirements of our divine purpose? If we hear it, maybe we’ll have to do something about it and be responsible to move toward a holy path.

Is that why some of us don’t hear (or won’t hear) what we’re truly all about? Maybe it’s not yet our time to hear. That’s a choice.

Personally, with all my sacred issues, a line from the Book of Hebrews helps me pay closer, not less, attention:

…If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.

Get ready to learn more

Ready to unlock life’s deepest meaning and fulfill your divine purpose? Dive into Marsha Sinetar’s contemplative wisdom and spiritual guidance today. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for insightful talks and embark on a journey of self-discovery and spirituality.

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