The comedy Seinfeld was often known for being a show about “nothing.” When you think about it, the episodes rarely had a story line and yet, somehow, the series touched on some of the most recognizable human moments and experiences that occur in ordinary everyday life and caused us to laugh for 9 seasons. While so many TV shows “jump the shark” in search of profound story lines to engage the audience, Seinfeld’s genius was being able to recognize the extraordinary entertainment value in ordinary moments.
St. Ignatius of Loyola took the same approach to spirituality and finding God in the ordinary events of human life. Too often we feel compelled to “jump the shark” when it comes to our spiritual lives, thinking that God is found only in moments of great profundity. Ignatius, like Seinfeld, invites us to look to the ordinary. Here are four ways to “adjust your vision” so as to recognize God in, not only the extraordinary, but also, in the ordinary moments of life.
- Significant People in Your Life – Just as God spoke to his people through Moses and the Prophets, God typically speaks to us through other people. Who are the significant people in your life who have shaped and influence you and to whom you owe much?
- Moments of Joy (Big or Small) – Throughout Scripture, people who recognize that they have had an encounter with God express that encounter in terms of great joy. By reversing that process, we can come to recognize encounters with God. In other words, by reflecting on moments of joy, whether big or small, we can recognize God’s movement in our lives.
- Peak Moments of grace – In addition to the everyday little ways that God has manifested his presence to us, each of us can think of a handful of extraordinary moments in our lives when we felt we had come face to face with the infinite and God’s presence was almost palpable. Perhaps it was a brush with death, a moment of incredible luck or fortune, a dramatic recovery from an unfortunate situation, or an extraordinary experience of beauty. Moments like these make us aware of a power greater than our own.
- Milestones in life – Each of us can identify significant moments in our lives when we reach a milestone: a graduation, a new job, a promotion, a birthday or anniversary, a wedding day, and so on. These events cause us to pause and to express gratitude and when we express gratitude, we find ourselves contemplating the Giver of all good gifts.
Every month I visit my spiritual director and I think to myself, “what will I talk about? I have nothing to talk about!” I then find myself talking about ordinary things: working on a project, spending time with family and friends, going on a trip, etc., and I come to realize that God is involved in those moments. Like Seinfeld, many of us think that our lives are about “nothing” to which Ignatius would respond by asking us to describe what we did today. He would then, most asuuredly, interrupt our litany of “nothings” and say,”THAT’S a show! There’s a show!” or more accurately, “THAT’S a God-moment! There’s a God-moment!” The practice of the Daily Examen is an exercise in finding God in a life that we previously thought was about nothing.
Good thoughts, Joe. Another reason all Catholics should have a spiritual director!