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
November 30, 2020 — Not long ago my 10-year-old son and I spent the morning helping a family friend plant garlic on his farm. It was cold — late fall in the Midwest often is — and although the sun was shining generously, the temperature was not far above freezing. Along with a half dozen friends, my son and I knelt in the dirt and shoved single cloves of garlic deep into the earth, one by one.
I was determined to be fully present to the task at hand, longing to bask in the fresh air and the beauty of creation on a quiet morning. This farmer friend happens to be largely responsible for my introduction to Ignatian spirituality. He has often explained that planting and harvesting forms his understanding of magis, the “more” that St. Ignatius spoke of: More love and action for God which in turn results in more love and action for others. To seek magis is to seek the greater glory of God.
I didn’t want to miss the chance to experience some magis myself, and I was trying my best to savor the graces of the present moment. The only problem was, I’d forgotten my gloves. Did I mention it was freezing?
Pulling my shirt sleeves over my palms, I dug into the work quickly, hoping the combination of my body’s movement with the bright sun would be enough to compensate for my exposed fingers. Beside me, my son buzzed happily along, chattering about the pliability of the soil and asking a million questions about garlic for which I had no answers. Meanwhile, my fingers were numb and achy, and I was getting increasingly grouchier by the minute.
And then, not a moment too soon, I felt that inner stirring within me that I’ve come to recognize as a movement of God. Ask for what you need. Ask for a pair of gloves.
I realize it sounds obvious. But burying my needs and gritting my teeth to barrel through them has been one of the most consistent patterns of my life. I’ve pushed aside my need for alone time and self-care as a mother. I’ve ignored my spiritual needs and sought what more I could “do” for God as a disciple. I have even forgotten to eat when there is too much to be done on a given day. And now here I was, thinking I would dig in my heels and just try to survive what would otherwise be a deeply life-giving time for me and for others.
The need for divine reminders to express my own needs is a recurring theme in my life. Someone else will have an entirely different journey with different areas of growth. The differences aren’t as important as the hope of us each paying attention to the inner workings of God in our hearts.
When our farmer friend told me about experiencing magis out in the field, he probably didn’t have me asking for gloves in mind. But that’s the beauty of finding our life in God: The path of one person will never look exactly like the path of another, but all paths are equally valid and important. On this particular day, magis was going to look like me asking to borrow a pair of gloves, because that was what I needed to be fully present to the work and to offer the best of myself to the people around me.
With this “aha moment” ringing in my ears, I walked over to my friend and asked to borrow an extra pair of gloves. Once he gamely retrieved some from the house and I had pulled them over my hands, the morning suddenly started looking up. As my son and I planted row after row, forging new friendships with those who planted alongside us, I was filled with gratitude for the gifts of fresh air, sunshine and shared work that would one day result in nourishment for many.
After the garlic cloves were planted, we all stood around enjoying socially distanced cups of apple cider and hot cocoa in the crisp morning air. With a twinkle in his eye, our friend spread out his hands as if to hold the entire farm itself and said, “Do you see why I say this is magis?” And with a smile and a wiggle of my warm fingers I told him in all sincerity that yes, I could see what he meant.
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.