Friday, September 14, 2018
We are never finished working and reworking the relationships of our lives. The ones that endure for a good part of our lifetimes are great treasures. In other relationships, one or the other party, or perhaps both recognize that they might go on together for a while and eventually, each person will go on without the other.
And then there is our relationship with God. Before we came to be, God knew us when we were being made in secret (Psalm 139). After that the ball is in our court. The primary task of our life is to “do the work” so that we abide in God and God in us. Wait a minute, you might say, God always abides in us and we in God. True. But what human life requires for growth toward being our most complete selves is that we work to raise to the conscious level what is unconscious, assumed, taken for granted, expected but not named. It is hard work to grow in God and to recognize that God grows in us, since our minds are spilling over with contemporary information and our feet take us 10,000 steps a day in a multitude of responsibilities, wants and needs.
How do we enlarge ourselves so that the God who is with us and in us is not a stranger, a shadow, a backdrop for our life? How can God become our acknowledged awesome other, companion and friend?
Here are a few hints:
1. Become as empty of clutter as possible. A daunting task, I agree, but essential. Paul calls this work self-emptying. Jesus did it (Philippians 3). We may like our clutter, but then there’s no room for The Other. Something has to go. Maybe for two or three or five minutes a day, at first, but then in longer periods. Two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. We know this from our high school physics. Mindfulness or meditation can help achieve this emptiness – an emptiness which prepares us to receive God.
2. Become as open as possible to God’s embrace. Not just presence, embrace. God holds us all the time, and we can honor the embrace of our abiding God as it becomes more clear to us. The spiritual writer, Richard Rohr, writing in The Divine Dance, says: “…by yourself: you do not know how to desire God, you don’t know where to look, you don’t know what to look for, you don’t know what God’s name is, you don’t know God’s shape, you originally don’t know God’s energy. You will almost always look in the wrong places. Just beautiful sunsets and not the cracks in the sidewalk. Just weddings and funerals and not the laundry room.” This leads to a third point.
3. Ask God to enlighten you. God’s Spirit knows how, and in our world are people who can help us “read” and interpret God’s movements within us. Who are these people? Spiritual directors and professional religious, for sure, but also some of our neighbors, coworkers and friends once we drop them a word that connects us at this deep level. God leads us to those who can help. Be ready to engage them.
4. Start now. The God who abides with us and in us has the gift of closeness to give us in abundance. We can be sure of it!
~Sister Joan Sobala