by Vinita Hampton Wright


Step 3: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

One of the most freeing discoveries to make is that “God” is beyond our names and definitions. No name or description could ever capture God Who Is. And yet, this expansive, eternal presence welcomes each of us, as we are. God is incomprehensible but, at the same time, deals with each of us personally.

What does that mean, that God knows anyone “personally”? Maybe it means that God is willing to be called whatever name you have for God. Your history, your family, your neighborhood, your circumstances—all contribute to what name or names you have learned, or what names you can accept. A person who has been wounded by a religious family or a religious institution may not be able to use that family’s or institution’s names for God. A person whose father or mother was abusive might not ever come to see God as a heavenly father or mother. None of this gets in the way of God’s care for that person.

St. Ignatius saw God as a king. Ignatius lived in medieval Spain, came from a semi-noble family, and was trained to be a knight. The only way he knew to think about God was as a bigger and better version of a human king. As he grew to know God more, that vision expanded, and Ignatius could see God beyond “His Majesty”; this Spaniard came to see God as the one who taught him, healed him, and walked alongside him. But Ignatius started from where he was; he started with God the king. Ignatius probably thought of himself as one of God’s soldiers, but that changed too, eventually, when Ignatius understood that the battles that really matter are those inside a person.

No matter how we understand God or what shape we’re in, the important thing is to begin. Call God “love” or “mercy” or “mystery.” The main point is that this mystery is big enough to hold your life, with all its messy details. When you turn your will and your life over to God, your name for God is not that important, but your willingness to trust God Who Is will help you open yourself to that presence who loves you.