Bridges to Faithful Action
THROUGH THE UPHEAVALS OF OUR DAY, I sense it’s more urgent than ever to be clear about our spiritual intentions. I imagine Life-giving intentions as a kind of bridge between our tumultuous reality and our values or ideals.
The Latin roots of the English, ”intention,” literally imply a “a stretching out.” Do you hear the “tension” in intention? Intentions helps us stretch between what is and what is possible. Like a bridge, we’re on one side of a crossing; we can see the far side. Intentions offer solid support for steps forward.
To be clear, the kind of intentions I’m exploring are not the same as New Years resolutions. Most of those well-meant goals fade after six weeks or so of challenges and weakening willpower. Engaging intentions as an active spiritual practice can do something different inside us.
Intentions can honor the core of our unique desires with and for God through it all. What do you care about enough to reach further than today? How do you wish to live your commitment to the Divine? What do you need to learn about yourself—your nature and gifts—to better collaborate with the Spirit of Love in times of great need? I trust that the core of these longings expresses something of the Holy One active within us.
Intentions orient our hearts and minds when demands swirl. They help us get clear to say, “No, thank you” as well as, “Yes, that’s mine to do!” So intentions can be powerful tools for good spiritual discernment. When needs and concerns are overwhelming, discernment is crucial. In the 1930’s as war was fermenting in Europe, Thomas Kelly wrote of:
“…a particularization of my responsibility…in a world too vast and a lifetime too short for me to carry all responsibilities. …But the Loving Presence does not burden us equally with all things, but considerately puts upon each of us just a few central tasks, as emphatic responsibilities. …Toward [other concerns] we feel kindly, but we are dismissed from active service in most of them.” (Kelly, Thomas R. A Testament of Devotion. New York: Harper & Row, 1992, 83)
Life-giving intentions can also carry us through trial and error, both success and failure. When we hold intentions as a spiritual practice, a single misstep or tumultuous detour is not the end of the story! We can turn or return to the sense of direction they offer. Intentions can act like an elastic band to pull us back into alignment with the Divine. Apparent failures—personal, relational, societal—can be lamented and released into the Source of all mercy and healing. Intentions help build resilience for courageous trust in God.
Here are some queries to prompt your own “bridge” intentions about a life centered in the Spirit through contemporary turmoil:
- If you value peace, how will you practice it through our current cultural polarization?
- If you care about Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, who do you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from?
- If you long for a closer connection with God in your parenting/work/efforts for social change, etc, how will you tend the relationship with prayer or spiritual practice?
- If you hope for better stewardship of creation, how can you live more lightly on the earth’s resources?
What other questions might you ask yourself about your own spiritual commitments or sense of direction? You can read part 1 of this reflection on intentions here: Centered in Spirit
This fall, the Way of the Spirit program invites all into supportive spiritual community to help recognize and live each participant’s unique intentions for faith and faithfulness. Attend a session on Intentions for a Committed Life, online Saturday, November 12, 9:30-11:30am Pacific Time. After attending online this fall, you may continue into the year-long program, “Called to a Committed Life.” It regathers in a residential retreat January 13-15, 2023, in Union, WA. Details here: https://goodnewsassociates.org/called-to-a-committed-life