Everyday Ignatian is a monthly series by Shannon K. Evans, a writer and mother of five living in Iowa who is chronicling moments of grace in the midst of her chaotic daily life through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.
By Shannon K. Evans
July 27, 2020 — My 10-year-old proudly opened his piggy bank, which, thanks to a recent birthday and some farm work done for a family friend, was stuffed to the brim with an impressive number of green bills. His dark brown eyes pulsed with glee as he confided his plans: “I’m going to buy that giant pack of 100 scented markers that I saw one time!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or groan. This kid has asked for — and received — scented markers for his last birthday and past two Christmases. There is no shortage of scented markers in our home. You want banana? We’ve got it. Nacho cheese? Check. Rotten melon alien ooze? I kid you not, we have three. A quick Google search revealed that the jumbo-sized pack he was pining for didn’t even contain any new scents, just a greater number of the same old ones. I couldn’t let him do it.
He would hear nothing of my long list of reasons why this was a terrible way to spend his money. As the protests became more vehement I sighed, rubbing my temples, and told him we’d talk more about it later. Leaving his bedroom, I opened up my laptop and braced myself for the inevitably ugly onslaught of news and social media postings of the day. As I expected, it was a bloodbath. The summer of 2020 has not been the best look for the human race.
The headlines and comment boxes were filled with bad news: people being less willing than ever to thoughtfully consider changing their views on issues like racial justice protests, common good etiquette during COVID, and the legislation on immigration and refugee resettlement. With everything being politicized along party lines, I read along as person after person dug in their heels and remained unwilling to consider new ideas, perspectives and solutions.
My first instinct was to feel judgmental and angry. But then I thought about how many times I’ve resisted changing my own mind and immediately felt humbled. Practicing Ignatian spirituality has taught me to examine my inner life: my motivations, desires and, yes, my fears. It was in being gently guided through the Ignatian concepts of freedom and unfreedom that I first recognized my own deeply rooted fear of change.
I’d always preferred to think of myself as an open-minded person, but Ignatian prayer forced me to confront the places in my heart I had sealed shut. No one is exempt from the need for continuous growth. We are all just human beings here, and although no human being wants to admit we might have been wrong, none of us come into this world fully evolved, either. To grow in spiritual freedom we must reckon with our need to change and eventually see it as a gift, a divine invitation into a more abundant life.
Ignatian spirituality teaches us that when confronted with beliefs or ideas that challenge those we have long held, the most helpful response is curiosity. We ask questions with the intent to learn more rather than the anticipation of crafting our own rebuttal. We explore the feelings that are aroused in us by this “threat” of change and learn to follow those feelings to find out what God might be revealing through them. If the heart of God is always and only for our greater wholeness and freedom, how might changing our minds lead to that?
Contemplating the ways this has proven helpful in my own life, I walked back to my son’s bedroom with an idea. “Hey buddy,” I began, “I have a compromise.” Figuring this was a step up from the solid “no” he had gotten earlier, he sat up a little straighter on his bed.
“How about this: You get curious, do a little research and make a list of 10 things you might like to buy with the money you’ve saved. The 100-pack of scented markers can be on the list, but you have to think of 9 other things too. Once you’ve finished the list you can decide what you want to buy. It might be the markers, but it might end up being something you haven’t even imagined yet.”
I could almost see the synapses firing away in his brain. “Can I use your computer to look things up?” he asked hopefully. When I smiled and responded in the affirmative his eyes widened a bit. “Ok,” he said, slowly and thoughtfully. “Ok, this might be fun.”
“I think so too,” I winked at him. “I think being willing to change our minds usually ends up more fun than we think.”
Shannon K. Evans is the author of “Embracing Weakness: The Unlikely Secret to Changing the World.” Her writing has been featured in America and Saint Anthony Messenger magazines, as well as online at Ruminate, Verily, Huffington Post, Grotto Network and others. Shannon, her husband and their five children make their home in central Iowa.