“perhaps God will . . . show you something of his favors that he is pleased to grant to souls, and of the difference between them . . . for there are so many of them that nobody can possibly understand them all . . . .” (Teresa of Avila: First Mansion, Chapter 1)
A couple years after I became a Christian I succumbed to legalism. My overly sensitive conscience prosecuted me daily for my sins or what I perceived to be sins. Trying to find spiritual guidance compounded the problem because so many in my faith community could only offer solutions that kept me tethered to a legalistic approach — pray harder, read the bible more, and get more involved in church was common advice. The xenophobia, disguised as theology, of those I trusted left me fearful to consult spiritual leaders outside our faith community. All this along with my inexperience in spiritual matters left me without sound guidance.
Then, over a period of several years, I had a number of enlightening experiences with God that released me from the grip religious legalism and gave me a new life of spiritual freedom. These encounters were accompanied by a lot of meditation and contemplation. I found unmistakable clarity for my current situation as well as guidance for the future. These experiences are similar to what Teresa of Avila calls “favors”.
Favors from God are not earned. Receiving or not receiving them have nothing to do with our goodness or lack of goodness. We can, however, place ourselves where we are more likely to experience and understand these favors. This begins with prayer and mediation that Teresa says is the “door of entry” to the interior castle. As we explore the castle we find guidance and as we continue our journey we discover “the chief mansion where the most secret things pass between God and the soul.”
I encourage you to set aside even small amounts of time for prayer, meditation, and silence. The guidance you receive will more than compensate for the time you spend.
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