A surprising new path to the mountaintop

Me and Mack

During our Autumn Art Retreat a couple of weeks ago, I snuck away to hike to the top of nearby Baker Mountain Park – the highest point in Catawba County. I can see Baker Mountain from my office window, and on this glorious Fall Day, it was calling my name. I had a revitalizing hike with some incredible views. And a surprising new insight. 

I started the 19th Annotations a few weeks earlier and needed some time to reflect.  The 19th Annotations are a way of going through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. The Exercises are usually done in a 30-day retreat. Since that’s not practical for most people, Saint Ignatius wisely added an end note (the 19th annotation) saying that the format of the Spiritual Exercises can be adapted to be made during daily life.  Instead of 30 straight days, this retreat may take me 30 or more weeks of heightened prayer, meditation, spiritual direction, and journaling.  

I began the Spiritual Exercises with the looming question: What does God want me to do with the rest of my life? My thoughts centered around life in general and the time I should allocate to work, grandchildren, travel, writing, spiritual direction, or leading retreats.  When I started the 19th, the possibilities seemed daunting, and I was looking forward to receiving some clarity. 

Instead of clarity on these life decisions, the meditations took me in a surprising new direction. God didn’t seem terribly interested in my questions on what I should do, but much more interested in who I should be. The reflections kept turning me away from the externals toward my own ‘interior castle’. I’m guessing that’s where God thinks the real work needs to be done.  As I follow this new path into these inner rooms, I see some dusty old corners that need to be swept clean, and some gremlins from my past hiding in the dark that need to be brought into the light. The message so far has been clear. Take care of this interior castle and God will take care of the externals. 

I started the 19th Annotation thinking the path to the ‘mountain top’ was ‘up there’. I’ve been surprised to realize that the path started leading me down into the recesses of my heart. Even the arrow in the photo doesn’t point up, but points toward my heart. 

In discernment, I often start with the question, “What does God want me to do?” Maybe I should begin with the more basic question: “Who does God want me to be?” 

May God lead you to your own ‘mountain top’.