I recently ran across a quote from a priest teaching at a prominent university who stated, 'Trust self less, trust God more.' In following the logic of this quote, which is a straight left brain mantra, the extrapolation might be as follows: careful trusting your heart, your gut sense and your feelings. Instead, trust God who is 'out there' somewhere to find. Then in finding Him out there, you will figure out what you are suppose to do.
This quote comes from an understanding that our human nature is fallen and that it is easy to entrust oneself to pleasure, power, fame or money. Sometimes one's feelings and desires are disordered towards ends that lead to nothing, leaving one depressed and in despair. But, 'The passions well ordered are a means of discerning the will of God,' said St Augustine. The rhythms and pulses of our interior life are important, for St Paul says 'the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor 6:19). This statement would have been scandalizing to a first century Jew. The temple was the place of worship where only priests could enter and listen to God, make sacrifices for the people and lift an offering to the Lord. To compare one's body to this temple sounds absurd. God speaks to man through his body? He engages woman through her senses? How?
St Ignatious of Loyola has a well known, integrated approach to prayer called the Ignation Exercises. In the first steps of naming sin and coming to terms with our limitations as humans, this act of humility paves the way for a heart felt, gut revealing and 5 senses-affirming journey into the interior life and a life of deep prayer. It is clear that thinking and our cognitive processes are the flip side to this coin. "Ignation prayer roots itself in heart knowing" (Horn, 2014). 'Heart knowing' includes the imagination. It includes fantasies. What if prayer includes the smile you received from your baby? Or the rush of a football game or concert? Or the negative feelings one has towards a friend, triggering the past?
"Don't search for Jesus in far lands - he is not there. He is close to you. He is with you," says Saint Mother Teresa. A practical way to pray with events of life, images and feelings is walking through the acronym ARRR. 'A' stands for Accept. If we accept what we are experiencing, whether a positive or negative feeling, an image or a memory, this allows us to Receive. This first 'R' is an active receiving and heart listening to what is happening inside of us. The second 'R' is Relate. Thus we talk, wrestle and speak to the Lord about what we are receiving. Then we Respond. This third 'R' gives us a practical way to work on virtue, shift our attitude or reflect on what God revealed in prayer.
It can be hard to trust ourselves sometimes. We make mistakes, we follow 'glittery things,' we run with the whims of feelings. But this doesn't mean we have to trust ourselves less. Maybe the quote should be "Entrust yourself to God's love and you can trust yourself more."
Michael Ciaccio MS, LPC, SATP