"We suckle ourselves on clear or comfortable answers because we fear to ask the questions that make the real difference to the quality and content of our souls. The spiritual life begins when we discover that we can only become spiritual adults when we go beyond the answers, beyond the fear of uncertainty, to that great encompassing mystery of life that is God," writes Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister, best-selling author, and popular national and international lecturer. In this inspiring and edifying spiritual memoir, the author shares some quotations and ideas from her journal over the past five years. Consider this work as an example of the growth and transformation that can come from reading and savoring the spiritual words of others. Chittister knows that light can come in from all directions. We must never exclude anything that brings meaning including the seeming darkness or those we consider to be enemies of enlightenment.
The chapters offer a glimpse into the author's muscular concerns: The Journey from Religion to Spirituality; The Inward Life: A Discovery of the Obvious; Immersion in Life: The Other Side of Inwardness; Feminist Spirituality: The Coming of a New World; Ecology: The Other Side of the Spiritual Life; and Dailiness: The Gifts of the Mundane. Chittister ranges freely and broadly in this spiritual memoir, and we learn briefly about some of the challenges she faced early in her life with a dead father, a mixed marriage, an Alzheimer's mother, polio, an alcoholic-dependent stepfather, and an institutionalized existence since the age of sixteen. No wonder she is able to see the grace of God and the transformative possibilities in the darkness: "It was years before I figured out how change and failure were among the best friends of the soul."
In one of our favorite passages, Chittister reveals: "I am never closer to God than in the moments when I am busiest. It is in those times that I throw myself on the mind of God and listen to know if the direction is right, if the words are right, if the ideas are right. Then God becomes the radar by which I steer. I stray farthest from the consciousness of God when I relax and coast. Then I take God for granted." This is the complete reverse of what we have been taught in most churches and by our culture. Yet it makes perfect sense to one who sees the activity of the Holy One in the midst of our work lives.
The overall theme of this memoir is questing: a spiritual practice that recognizes that tough questions can propel us into a deeper appreciation for the meaning of life and the mystery of God.