Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather,
although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.
Our world privileges the visible. It is an intense, almost desperate process of reification. This bias impacts how we spend our time, how we spend our money, how we spend our energy both individually and communally. Sometimes I can feel my fingernails muddy, bloody with struggle, trying to claw my way out of the grave by holding on to the images, concepts, and experiences that cross my path. In these moments of suffering, I cling hard to my family, I cling to my friends, I cling to my work identity and my church identity, I cling to ideas about who I ought to be, and how others ought to see me. Maybe you’ve had this experience, too.
I’ve also seen in myself and others how, when we recognize this human over-commitment to visibility, and the suffering it creates – when we first conceive that it is not the only way to live, we feel both excited and duped, even pissed off. “Who has been pulling the wool over my inner eyes all this time?” we might yell, looking around for the culprit. Caught by anger, the close cousin of clarity, we might commit an understandable error as we try for a while to chuck the visible. Give me the invisible! The spiritual, that’s what matters! Down with the visible.
But here is our Creed: “I believe in one God…Maker of all things visible and invisible.” God made and breathes love into all things, all thoughts, all experience, all space. Our work becomes, to attend closely to the invisible while loving the visible for what it is: luminous, impermanent, changing, and imbued with Godself, saturated and alive with love.
There is wisdom for Jesuit people, and particularly Jesuit women, in this. Our father and founder, Ignatius, gifted us with the notion of non-attachment, intending that we not suffer or cause others to suffer from clinging to health or sickness, wealth or poverty, honor or dishonor, a long life or a short one. Let us add to that list, visibility or invisibility. There are advantages and disadvantages to both! Typically the mind really appreciates her visibility, and the soul, her invisibility. But sometimes to thrive, the soul must manifest visibly, and the mind needs to be invisible for a while, in order to freely work out a particularly thorny problem. Sometimes it is easier to serve God’s purposes with high visibility, and sometimes much easier to do that from a position of invisibility.
How, as Jesuit women, can we learn to accept and employ both our invisibility and our visibility? How can we live skillfully, letting each state draw us closer to God as we discern and give life to both the greater, and the deeper good?