In this life, we live in a very foggy world – so to speak. While the less important, more transient things are right in front of us, plain to see, the eternally important things are, most frustratingly, invisible to us. I’ve discussed this condition in further depth over a quite a few previous blogs (see links below). However, there remains the issue of dealing with this reality on a practical level.
Given our blindness, we are easily lured into living as if God didn’t exist, as if He had nothing to do with our material lives.
Since we live in a fairly secular society, such an attitude already surrounds us, permeating the culture in which we live. If we don’t question this undercurrent attitude in everything we do, we can subconsciously acquire it as our own. And so, we end up proclaiming something entirely different through our manner of living than what we’d like to say we actually believe!
All the while, the truest reality, the reality charged with the weight of eternity, is that God is present with us. As the Creator, He not only created us in the Beginning, but continues to sustain us in creation. As Thomas Merton writes: in every moment, there exists “[that] place in you where you are here and now being created by God.” (1) As the Son, He was sent to us in Person, taking on physical human form, physically walking among us, and promising us, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:20). And as the Holy Spirit, God remains with us as a “Counselor, to be with you for ever […] for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” (Jn 14:16-17)
So – how can we avoid the trap of forgetting this most important reality of all? What are some things we can do to stop ignoring God?
1. Cultivate a habit of speaking to God at all times.
Little words sprinkled throughout the day, and little events lifted up to Him, can all have a great effect on renewing your mind and re-orienting it towards eternity. Saint Therese has called prayer “a simple look turned toward heaven” (2) – it doesn’t need to get more complicated than that. It takes effort to make those little acts a regular part of our lives, but that’s exactly where the habit will form – and where your world will change.
2. Let everything remind you of God’s action in your life.
In describing this approach in Discovering The Feminine Genius, Katrina Zeno suggests, “When I’m washing dishes, I pray: ‘Thank you, Jesus, that you wash away our sins.’ […] When I open the door to walk out, I pray, ‘Jesus, help me to open the door of my heart to you.’” (3) If you don’t feel comfortable with spelling it out quite so much, pairing open eyes with gratitude sets you in the right direction. Given the right attitude, a simple look around you will show you God’s creation, His love imaged through different people in your life, His redemptive work in different opportunities you’re given to serve, love, and forgive.
3. Practice letting go, to make room to listen.
If you can’t see Him acting in your life, it could be that you’re not giving Him enough of yourself to work with. Perhaps you’re a little too attached to that easily accessible – and easily addictive – material reality before you. In his Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence writes: “I know that for the right practice of it the heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.” (4) Practically speaking, then, make a habit of letting go by making little sacrifices throughout the day. By choosing to get up a little earlier, or choosing not to indulge that craving for snacks, you allow your priorities to be shifted. You effectively de-clutter your heart. And as a consequence, you become able to recognize the most important reality for what it is – without lesser things clouding your vision.
4. Root these different practices in regular, set-aside times of prayer.
It can be easy to let these previous actions become something “floatey,” insubstantial, if you don’t take the time to go back and re-focus by listening to God’s words. As fallible human beings, we need to take that time to re-orient ourselves to God, to remember why we’re building these habits, and to make sure our prayers remain in line with God’s revealed truths.
Lastly – do not be discouraged. As Brother Lawrence writes, “You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.” (5)
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- Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2558
- Katrina Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius, (Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2010), p.107-8
- Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, (Boston, MA: New Seeds Books, 2005), Letter 5, p. 41
- Brother Lawrence, Letter 7, p. 46