As we make the Spiritual Exercises we ask for various graces. Recently I have been asking for the grace to admire people.
It started with a seemly simple assignment a couple weeks ago: List the people you admire, people you would like to imitate.
I had a hard time making that list. In fact, it took me a week to think of one person that I very conditionally admired and might want to imitate in certain aspects.
I could, however, quite easily list qualities that I admire, skills that I want to develop, and character traits I would like to emulate. That’s not what I’d been asked to list, but I figured it was something, so I started writing:
courageous, fierce, just
joyful, spontaneous, still
voiced, diligent, kind, gentle
nurturing, loving, blessing
feeling emotions, open to God
generous, honest, humble
open to people, open with time
As I wrote “open to people” the Spirit nudged me:
“Embody, Helen –
not theory, never pure virtue –
‘I am the truth.’
“I am . . . the truth.”
Jesus’ claim shakes me.
It wouldn’t bother me if Jesus said, “I always tell the truth,” or “I live an honest life.” Those statements would fit my understanding of reality. But “I am the truth”?
I tend toward idealism. I don’t mean that I tend to set impossibly high standards (though I do that too). I mean I tend to think that ultimate reality is in ideas and thought, to value a concept above a person, and to think of truth and love as abstract.
Basically, I tend to think that there’s an ultimate standard of goodness that God conforms to and is, therefore, good.
In so doing, I idolize goodness; I idolize my understanding of goodness; I idolize my understanding.
Then Jesus steps in and says, “I am the truth.”
And my idol crumbles, vaporizes, vanishes in thin air. Truth is a person.
I am undone.
I want to love this person, admire this person, emulate this person. I want out of the idealized world where flesh and blood are shadows. I want to live in physical reality. I want to enter stories, not theories. I want to admire people, not ideas. I want to know Truth.