I am conscious that I haven’t given enough attention to Jim Manney’s splendid, God Finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Jim, as in A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, has the wonderful ability to take Ignatian concepts in Jesuit-speak and translate them into human language. It is a great gift!
Here Jim explains what it means to be God’s friend.
Ignatian prayer cultivates a conscious, intimate, personal relationship with God. It’s a relationship of friends.
“You are my friends,” Jesus said. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
The Jesuit William Barry says that “God desires humans into existence for the sake of friendship.” Barry makes it a point to draw out the contrast between this friendship and conventional images of God. God our friend is not God the majestic, all-powerful, and distant ruler. The image is not God as lawgiver and judge.
I’m a baseball fan, and I used to think about God as something like the manager of a baseball team who gets along well with his players—supportive, but also watchful and critical, ready to put me on the bench if I strike out too much.
Remember that these are only analogies; anything we say about God is a mere shadow of the reality. But images do matter, and there’s no question that “friend” describes the God we meet in the Exercises better than “scorekeeper” or “judge.”
As Father Barry’s Irish mother put it, “God is better than he’s made out to be.”