by Harry Banks

A recent confrontation with my faith community has given me the opportunity to check my compass …

Several years ago I ran across some guidelines for spiritual self-direction that gave practical inner criteria for spiritual self-appraisal. And from time to time I seem to walk a solitary journey which allows me the opportunity to revisit some of these cardinal points (you know those four principal directions you see in the compass rosette on maps).

So if you'd like I'll take you along with me as I review some of my life touchstones which have helped me through the several decades of my life.

Discernment

So in the middle of pressures, arguments, scripture quoting, true and false piety posturing all around me how can I discern whether I'm in the right spiritual place … Hmmm … OK so my buddy Adrian (sorry but I never actually met him) describes some things to look for when evaluating my spiritual self-direction.

He says:  "There are … moods and feeling that can reveal to us if our way of life is compatible or incompatible with our divine self-direction." I translate that to mean, Can I tell if the Holy Spirit is having a chance to be heard in my spiritual conversation with myself?

He goes on:  "Signs of compatibility [to me that means signs of listening to the Holy Spirit] are moods of gentleness and peace, equanimity and humility, a peaceful determination, joy and resiliency."

Then he goes for the contrast:  "Signs of incompatibility [my interpretation, I ain't listening Godward worth a darn!] are the opposite moods of vehemence, agitation, excited partiality, exaltation, depression, discouragement, sadness and lack of quiet determination."

So whadayathink? Does that make sense to you? Well it did to me. So today I'm checking my inner conversation. Last night I was confused, begging God to let a little light shine through; Thinking I was "the only one in Israel" if you get the reference. This morning I'm actually able to pick up this blog which I had promised myself not to touch until there was a clear indication of positive Godward motivation. And upon checking, there is a mood of gentleness and peace and the rest of the list.

OK, OK. I know there are the you-can't-depend-on-mood-people out there, so let me just toss out a little thought crumb for them. So when the fruits of the spirit are described as "Love, Joy, Peace …" do some of those sound like moods? Huh? Huh?

You don't have to agree with me but I'm thinking that sorta supports Adrian's criteria.

But I digress. My buddy Adrian doesn't stop there he even goes so far as to say that from his point of view there is only one "sure sign" that one is following the right way and that "is the permanence of profound inner peace and tranquil determination."

So the miracle has happened. As I write this blog that inner peace is showing itself. Now all I have to do is to see if I keep listening to God's best stuff well enough that it develops into that state of permanence.

Disillusionment

So why do I have trouble staying there? He suggests that the journey to "tranquil determination" is not an easy trip because it likely goes like this:

I have a deep longing for a relationship with an ultimate being.

Along the path I may transfer that yearning to relationships with teachers, sweethearts, clergy, or institutions.

After some time I may get caught up in a period of disillusionment when I realize these substitutes can't fill the place of the ultimate being. (I was pretty much there last night.)

But here comes the kicker:  At this point I get to make a decision.

A. To hang on to the "grumbling, complaining and carping on the faults of everyone and everything,"

Or …

B. To live through this negative period and rediscover the limited value in human relationships.

Gems

With plan B, Adrian says, the person "will be delighted to discover many gems of sparkling beauty in the gray mud of selfishness which spreads itself through everyday human life."

OK, sports fans … I'm looking for those gems in the mud. Have you found any?

[Note: The quotes from Adrian van Kamm are from his books Self Direction (pages 416-417, 419) and Religion and Personality (page 153).]