Am I safe or not?

Why is it that some people seem to be “safe” or “approachable” and others are not? This question is important to me since I tend to be in the latter category more often than not. Surprisingly, some of the writings of the desert fathers (who wrote between 300 and 400) help. I found this in Heaven begins within you by Anselm Gruen. He says, “Gentle persons are attractive to so many people.” (118) I am motivated to continue my growth in Christ and to see what God will do within me since Gruen wrote, “Gentleness and compassion are the criteria of genuine spirituality.” (118) I guess I have a long way to go.

I also tend to agree with Gruen’s comments that young people have not often “come to terms with their own reality” or they have not yet encountered their “shadow side”. However, I don’t think that means that we should not provide spiritual direction to those on the younger side of life. It seems that the type of spiritual formation and direction we offer may need to be different than with those who have a more realistic picture of their own humanity.

In what was probably the most helpful part of the book (chapters 6 and 7), Gruen explains how the desert fathers help us to understand what lies behind the passions of the body, mind and emotions and offered corresponding spiritual practices in battling each of these passions. I need to understand where my own “compassion deficits” lie so that I can better understand my own and other’s struggles as well as offer tools to help in the battles against the flesh.

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