July 4, 2023
Happy Independence Day! Perhaps no word resonates with the American democratic experiment than freedom. Our history books and national mythology teach us that freedom was the driving force of what became the United States of America. And yet, we know that despite the promises of the Declaration of Independence not everyone is treated equally even if they are all created equally.
Now, before you think that this post is a political polemic, let’s press the pause button. Rest assured, Chrysalis Counseling for Clergy is not a political action committee. However, freedom is an important topic for our consideration as clergy, ministry professionals, and really anyone who pays attention to the spiritual life.
Freedom, as a spiritual category, finds its most significant roots in the work of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius understood freedom to mean that we are not attached to anything, anyone, or any decision in such a way that that attachment would keep a person from responding to God. Ignatius called this inordinate attachment. Spiritual freedom is the disposition of the heart in which we recognize that all things are created by God and are a gift of God. At the same time we also pay close attention to being drawn too close to anything or anyone that interferes with this freedom.
While this is a fairly easy concept to understand from a spiritual perspective, it is difficult to practice in real life in real time. For example, have you ever tried to go to sleep only to find your mind reading back through emails from the day? At a very pedestrian level this is an example of inordinate attachment. Holding on. Rehashing. All of those traps we get in can indicate that we are paying too much attention to something that is not the basis of faith: loving God, neighbor, and self. As you can imagine, if spiritual freedom can be applied to how long we think about email, just imagine how significant it is to discerning our vocational calling.
As clergy and ministry professionals we are inundated daily with opportunities to love God through our work, presence, and relationships, However these same experiences can be ones that we hold onto too tightly. We attach ourselves to some because they are a negative experience and they hurt in our heart or they roll around in our heads. Conversely, some of the experiences are so good that we hold onto them as affirmations, as validation, or even as a substitute for the love that we seek and share from the Divine Source—God.
If you were to think about your own ministry, are you able to name situations, moments, or experiences, that you hold onto too tightly? Perhaps an exercise to practice is feeling the difference between a clenched fist—holding on too tightly—and an open hand which can give and receive.
Perhaps this short blog or even the simple practice of clenching the fist and opening the hand has invited you to consider that which you might have an inordinate attachment. If so and you would like to discover more about spiritual freedom reach out to us at Chrysalis. We are here for you.
On your side,
The Chrysalis Team