The Challenge of Life

"Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord. In other words, it's not about you. It's about God; specifically, it's about a relationship between you and God. We're created to love God, and God gave us everything we see around us — the 'things on the face of the earth' — to help us do that. God is a creative lover. You might say that God is love, loving. If you think that God loves you only when you're a good person who follows the rules, then you'll see life as a time of testing in which you work hard to do the right thing and stay out of trouble. If you see creation as a gift to help you 'know God more easily,' then you'll see life as a way of growing closer to God.

"Another implication of the big picture: God is here, working in this world, present to us in an infinite number of ways. It's like a giant satellite TV with a thousand channels. One of the great themes of Ignatian spirituality is 'finding God in all things.' Other spiritualities emphasize one or two of these channels, such as fixed-hour prayer, fasting, solitude, devotional practices, and self-denial. Ignatian spirituality looks for God in everything. It's the difference between a silent movie in black and white and a high-speed Internet connection bringing us a million websites.

"If this is true — if our work, relationships, and the other things on the face of the earth are ways to know God — then the choices we make about these things are just about the most important things we do. As the First Principle and Foundation puts it, the goal is to 'choose what better leads to God's deepening life in me.' The challenge of life is to choose the good and avoid the bad. The objects of our choices are 'the other things on the face of the earth' — the work we do, our friends and family, our responsibilities, our ambitions and hopes and disappointments, the opportunities and misfortunes that come our way. In other words, everything. All of it is meaningful. Nothing is so small, so fleeting, so distasteful, or so awful that it's excluded from God's love.

"Choosing well is easier said than done. It's easy to get off track, to make poor choices, to make choices for the wrong reasons, or to get bogged down in a muddle of conflicting desires and the infinite variety of possible futures available to us. Perhaps the most common mistake is doing it backward. Instead of putting God first and then choosing the course that brings us closer to God, we often choose what seems best to us and then try to fit God into that. You might choose the career that seems to suit you — and then ask God to bless it. You might decide to get married — and then ask God to make the marriage a success. These might not necessarily be bad decisions, but Ignatius says that the best decisions begin by us asking what will bring us closer to God."