It is not unusual for there to be an extraordinary event which cause wide scale disruption and change. Change where some things of the past are lost forever and new things, we had never conceived of, become normal. What is rare is for there to be a convergence of two or more disruptions taking place at the same time across the whole world. As you enter into this practice and think back over the past few months, consider not just the global pandemic of Covid and self-isolation, social distancing and loss of lives, but also the economy, lost jobs, closed businesses, public and social events. This would be more than enough to cause a great disruption, but of course there has been another event converging with and over this one. The murder of George Floyd, caught on camera, and seen around the world has disrupted many, caused individuals, institutions, churches, businesses, police and governments to examine white privilege and supremacy, and to confront systematic racism in almost every aspect of our lives.
Just one of these events would have served as a societal and cultural disruption but the two together causes a disruption on a scale that has not been experience in generations, if ever. Considering it all, facing it and trying to cope can feel overwhelming. This is precisely where a spiritual practice like this one can begin to help us.
St. Ignatius spoke of moments or movements of ‘Consolation’ and ‘Desolation’. Consolation is about an awareness of the presence, movement, or activity of God. What drew you closer, made you more aware of God, goodness, truth, or beauty? When did you feel grace, joy, deep peace, hope, love, where were moments of clarity, self-acceptance, un-shame?
Desolation is about a seeming absence of the presence, movement, or activity of God in your day. What made you feel lost, apart, disconnected, worried or, disordered? When was there a sense of guilt, impatience, depression, anxiety, fear, self-rejection, lack of peace, grief or, shame?
Both consolation and desolation occur throughout a day and throughout a length of time. Both can lead to growth and greater trust and intimacy with ourselves, others and with God. Both are invitations from God to seek, to learn and to lean. The spiritual practice which follows invites you to consider consolation and desolation, to look back and to look forward, recognizing and accepting that there is a newly forming ‘ordinary’, even in these ‘extraordinary’ times.
By way of preparation I invite you to create time and space, silence and solitude. I suggest you have a pen and paper with you to write down what you think, see, hear, and feel. You may also what to only consider one question at time. Begin with a time of silence, take some deep breaths, perhaps repeat a sentence or breath prayer, “Abba I belong to you”, “Abide in me that I might abide in you”. Or imagine yourself with Jesus in the upper room, leaning your head against Jesus breast, hearing his breathing and his heartbeat. In each of the questions consider movements of both consolation and desolation. Note there can be more than one answer to each of the questions.
- What practice or activity have you started to do in these recent weeks/months that you want to hold on to or keep doing even as a new ordinary begins?
- What have you missed over these past week/months that you long to get back to or do again?
- What ‘gone things’, activities, behaviours, practices which are either gone for good or for a long time are you going to need to let go of in order to adapt to life the new normal? (Letting go of ‘gone things’ is necessary if you are to adapt).
- In this ‘new ordinary’, the new way things might be or are going be, what is Jesus inviting you to? It might be something you are not sure about or will be a challenge for you to consider or practice?
If you are part of a faith community, you may which to consider each of these question through this lens too.