Spiritual Director and Author, Patricia Adams, chats to MysticMag about worldly matters to do with Spirituality, Calling and Religion.
What do you believe your true calling to be?
In my late 50’s I was already helping people in their spiritual lives, but when I heard that the Sisters of Mercy were offering spiritual direction training to laypeople I ran to sign up. I had grown up in a hell-fire-and damnation church and, as an adult, experienced God as a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. But I soon could not stay in the church or tolerate that negative image of God. And so, I began a long journey to find a God I could love.
One of the first lessons I came upon was that there were different ways to interpret the Bible. And that actually led me to a moment in time when I heard God’s voice within me saying: “Write!” As first I replied sarcastically, “Right!” But soon I was writing down whatever was on my heart and mind, like “the courage to be me” and more. Soon, I was giving my life to Christ and going on a journey of exploring some world religions like Buddhism and Hinduism and Taoism and then reading the writings of the saints of the church. What I learned from Taoism was to not push the river, to go where the energy was flowing. And what I learned from the saints like Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila was just inspiring. They went beyond their beliefs to active participation with the Spirit of God, in His presence. So that became my model.
Back to the spiritual direction training: I learned to listen for the voice within me of the Holy Spirit and to set aside my own personal reactions to what the directee was saying for later. I learned to be present to the person before me. I really enjoyed doing spiritual direction for quite a while, but meanwhile I was directed to take Spanish lessons.
Working with a tutor, she soon had me writing paragraphs in Spanish every week. At first, I wrote about my family and friends and what was going on in my life, but soon I was writing from the lens of a spiritual director: how do I, how do we live this life in Christ?
A few years later in 2008 as I moved from California to North Caroline to live close to my daughter and her family, I was launching a bi-lingual blog with my tutor as my editor in Spanish. She soon fell and couldn’t work anymore, so I dropped the Spanish language blog. By 2011 I made a commitment to publish my blog, By the Waters, every week and have done so ever since then. Five years later I wrote my first book, Thy Kingdom Come!, and self-published it. I’ve written three more, all from the perspective of a spiritual director: Exodus: Our Story, Too!, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, and A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.
My spiritual direction practice dwindled as I pursued the writing, but I believe that the original call of God that I heard, “Write!” was the call to be a spiritual writer. And that is my true calling.
How did your early experience in a cult impact your life and how were you able to extricate yourself from this ‘hold?’
My husband and I joined our closest friends in Creative Initiative, a cult in Northern California in the 1960s — 80s. Led by a Stanford professor and his wife, Creative Initiative was based on the Bible, but not on the divinity of Jesus. Here was where I first saw the different interpretations of the teachings. Mostly, the cult was about our own spiritual journeys, but we did demonstrate against nuclear weapons and members were often engaged in helping others. We stayed for eight years.
The last year we were there the leaders decided that we should all give our lives to God. And I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t. At our December meeting in 1980, something shifted in me and I began to argue with the leader. She suggested that I might take a leave of absence and figure out what I wanted to do. So my husband and I left in the middle of that meeting with the group’s blessing. I cried for three days because I had wanted so much to be a part of that group. But when my grieving was over, I wrote out a list of what I really wanted to do. And from then on, my life was no longer outer-oriented. And a year later, I surrendered my life to Christ.
In your opinion, what is the difference (if any) in the following of Jesus in the 21st Century compared to times gone by?
From the beginning of Jesus’s ministry on earth people have always had the choice of whether to follow Him or not. There have always been other religions and non-religions. There have always been our oh-so-human ways that have kept us from believing in and following Jesus. The big difference that I see today is the choice to be in the church or not. The ‘Dones’ and ‘Nones’ of our culture are either leaving the church or were never in it. They are not finding what they need in the church. The church overall is leaching membership.
The church as a whole, in my opinion, is not connecting people directly to God; it is connecting people to the church or the minister or to its beliefs, so that the church will survive. But, in this way, the congregation of any church only finds so much help/support/direction/love/forgiveness—it all depends on what that particular church wants to give. And so, many people just do not feel the connection with the full life, peace, love, forgiveness, fulfillment, and joy that God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ offer us. And that is why people are leaving the church.
How can a skeptic expect to see their life unfold once they travel down the spiritual path by my side?
I don’t think any one of us has any idea of what our lives would look like if we decided to follow our deepest instincts to connect with God. Surprise and revelation are the nature of the journey as we turn more and more to what God is asking of us, as we offer up our pain and suffering to God, as we remove, with God’s help, any obstacles, any cultural attachments, any part of our very low self-images that we grow up with. Freedom to be who we were created to be comes from giving up anything that belongs to the world in favor of living as we were actually created to live. When we live in the truth about ourselves, we are free to just be who we really are. And then, what we experience is fulfillment, peace, joy, love, and forgiveness –through discovering the purpose for which we were created.
How do I go about deepening my own faith and that of others around you?
The last two years of Covid have taught me a huge lesson. Our church was on-line for a year and when we came back in person, I had this immediate desire to really get to know people in depth, from their life stories. So, I began to ask the groups I was in to let each person tell their life story. And that was so enriching for me. As I connect deeply with each person, whether I have known them before or not, I am being present to them, present to the Lord in that moment. And I am so much richer for each experience. I realized recently that my spiritual direction practice, once so vital, has morphed into these deep encounters. And the other person and I are both so enriched by these deep encounters.
In addition, I write about spiritual practices and what we need to let go of in order to be really true to ourselves and to God. The most important practice is one that brings us the ability to hear the suggestions God is making to us and to follow them, whether they are words said in our minds or pictures which suggest a certain action or nudges or suggestions from a friend to do this or that. The ability to be present to Him spills over into our ability to be present wherever we go, to whomever we are with. And that presence brings all of us love and forgiveness, joy and peace. A blessing comes any time we can be totally with another person or persons.
If you would like to find out more about Patricia Adams, visit https://patsaidadams.com/ or follow on https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064875960374