We often hear about the journey of life. Here is a piece from Dr. Robert Wicks suggesting not one but three journeys in a fully lived life.
I found this very helpful and am happy to share it with you.
THE 3 INNER JOURNEYS
ALL OF US MUST TAKE
The FIRST INNER JOURNEY is the most straightforward. It also takes up more than half our life. It is the journey to find our true “name”. People see us in many ways but God has the copyright on our true charism, our central gift in life. It is the one that we called to fully enjoy and share freely with others. In my own case, I have found “passion” to be the word that most fully describes who I am at the core of my personality.
This first inner journey in self-understanding usually takes more than half our life until we realize that we are being called to a SECOND JOURNEY. It is one in which are attention is more drawn to how we can “prune” our primary charism through embracing a second word or name. In my case, I found that at a point in my 40s and 50s my gift of passion needed balancing or pacing in its delivery. When I felt anxious, my passion (ego) would fill the room. In an effort to be passionate with others, sometimes I would be intrusive instead of encouraging which was not very helpful. So, the second journey for me was to embrace gentleness so I could live a gentle passionate life—to be, if you will, comPASSIONate. If your word or name is “listener”, for instance, then maybe in your 40s and 50s you would be called to embrace “assertive” as your other word so you become an assertive listener. It differs from person to person, from charism to charism, as to what the pruning or balancing word would be depending what your central gift is.
The THIRD JOURNEY is the most mysterious of all and generally we are ask to take it in our 50s, 60s or even later. The best way to describe it is by way of a story. A spiritual traveler in his mid-50s visited a mentor who knew him well. When she asked him how he was progressing spiritually, he humbly said, “Step by little step.” To that the mentor smiled and said, “That will no longer be good enough. You can’t cross a spiritual canyon by taking small steps. At this point, instead you must leap into the darkness.”
That spiritual and psychological leap is when we are called to take the second “word” or “name” we have chosen and make it our central focus, our first name. In my case, it meant that instead of being passionate in the best way possible, I needed to focus on being gentle. If it is done correctly, people won’t really notice. In my case, they should always see me as passionate in some way. However, without being aware of it they should leave me and experience the gentleness in some way if I am truly centered on it.
Now, why is this third journey A LEAP INTO THE DARKNESS? Well, in my case, when I felt I was being called to emphasize gentleness and shone a psychological light on this trait, I could see how many times I had failed in this regard in the past. Moreover, even when I tried to turn over a new leaf and be more gentle in the present, I would often fail and feel this lack of reaching my goal in a deeply moving way.
So, you might reasonable ask, then why would you continue to do this when you could simply go back to being passionate in the best way possible? Well, in responding to the call to take the third journey, I began to feel a new sense of freedom and understanding of the reality of Grace. I began to realize at a new level, that I could not do it by myself. Instead, I needed to embrace the Ignatian theme of: Work as if it were all in your hands while recognizing it is all in God’s hands. Furthermore, by emphasizing a lesser gift my eyes began to open to see more clearly the other signature strengths God had given me that I was unable to see while I was in control. Up to this point, the primary light of my personality had been blinding me to the “lesser” gifts God had given me to enjoy and share freely. Quite a gift when you think about it.
The spiritual journey to respond to God’s call especially later in life is not easy though. Abram could have simply stayed comfortable but instead he responded to the call to be Abraham, the Father of His People. His wife Sarai could have given up her desire to be a mother so late in life but she responded as well to become Sarah, a woman filled with new potential.
What will your response be when you are called to embrace an identity copyrighted by God and not the world? Those who love you and a world that needs you to be all that you are called to be are waiting to see your response.
Dr. Robert J. Wicks’ latest book is NIGHT CALL: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World. His most widely read work is RIDING THE DRAGON: 10 Lessons in Inner Strength in Challenging Times.