What Are Your Foundational Experiences of God?

Celtic cross of peace.

Three years ago, when I had just begun my training as a spiritual director, I attended an instructional retreat weekend that had the topic of discernment as its central focus.

On the very first evening of that retreat, we watched a short clip from Mary Ann Scofield, one of the founders of Spiritual Directors International, talking about our foundational experiences of God and how they can serve as touchstones in our ongoing lives of faith. And this past weekend, as I attended a similar retreat weekend on that same topic, we revisited this idea of foundational experiences of God and how they can serve us in our discernment processes. 

Consider the baptism experience of Jesus in Matthew 3.

Jesus comes up from the water, and a dove descends from the clouds as a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” This was a declarative moment in the life of Jesus — a moment that confirmed his identity not only as the Son of God, but also as one who is beloved. 

We see Jesus move from the bapstimal encounter into the wilderness, where he is tested by the devil at that very point of his identity. Three times, the devil tempts Jesus by saying, “If you really are the Son of God, do this … or this … or this.” He is testing the very meaning of what it means for Jesus to really be the Son of God, and Jesus must go back to that foundational encounter and remember. Reconnecting with his true identity that he received directly from God in that baptismal encounter allows him to respond to each temptation.

What about you? 

What foundational experiences of God have formed your life? What did those foundational experiences teach you about God and yourself? How might returning to those foundational moments serve you in your own process of discernment?