I like the way in which some souls, when they are at prayer, think that, for Gods sake, they would be glad if they could be humbled and put to open shame–and then try to conceal quite a slight failure. Oh, and if they should be accused of anything that they have not done—-! God save us from having to listen to them then. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter 3)
We dream of becoming spiritual giants. Then, within in a couple of days, we are sidetracked by some minor trial.
This happens when:
- We rely on our imagination instead of our faculties: God gave us faculties of reason, faith, memory, will, and understanding. Our faculties effectively counsel us and we should rely on them instead of our imagination. Teresa says, “The devil makes good use of the imagination in practicing his surprises and deceptions . . . because we do not understand the difference between the faculties and the imagination, and thousands of others things belonging to the interior life.” Discipline trumps dreaming and our faculties outdistance our imaginations.
- We focus on ambition instead of “loving our neighbor”: Ambition seeks power and status to serve self. Loving our neighbor serves others while maintaining a remarkable capacity for self-care. Teresa says, “Oh, sisters, how clearly it can be seen what love of your neighbor really means to some of you, and what an imperfect stage it has reached in others! If you understood the importance of this virtue to us all you would strive after nothing but gaining it.” We know whether we love our neighbor or not. We know whether others love their neighbors or not. And we know whether leaders practice “love of neighbor”.
Relying on our imagination instead of our faculties can distort spirituality. When this distortion is accompanied by a passion to serve self it becomes dangerous. We must strive for a better spirituality — one that is guided by faith, refined by discipline, and powered by love.