Returning to Real Life after a vacation (even a short one) in a Warm Place is a little like jumping onto one of those moving walkways at the airport in the “keep walking” lane. You’re concentrating on getting Somewhere and thinking about Things, while juggling luggage and trying not to run over other moving walkers. It’s easy to be absorbed with lists and tasks rather than present to God and others.
This was my challenge last week. Real Life kept getting in the way of a Real Relationship with God – you know, where you actually are still, and listen, and talk to Him and say “What do You have to tell me about Yourself and myself, Jesus?” I’d be humming along, getting things done – even good things like reading the Bible – and all of a sudden realize that being with Jesus was kind of like brushing my teeth – I was going through the motions without thinking about it.
Here’s what happens when being with Jesus is like brushing my teeth – I start feeling fat and ugly and discouraged and cranky, tired, and out of sorts – kind of like a toddler who needs a nap or a time out.
There are a couple practices that seem to help me in my gotta keep going on the walkway, or cranky toddler mode – Centering Prayer and the Examen. Don’t freak out that they sound all contempla-yogi. That’s not me. But just 3 minutes with either of these helps gently steer me back into a relationship with Jesus instead of a religion about doing things. Even a mom with toddlers can manage that.
Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
My friend is so good at the practice of Centering Prayer. She can’t imagine starting her day without 15 minutes of silent listening with Jesus. But for me it’s quite a discipline not to devolve into thinking about my grocery list after about 3 minutes.
Anyway, I’m getting off track (much like I’m prone to do with Jesus). Here’s what happened when I truly sat still and silent with Jesus in my tired discouragement. He reminded me “I’m in this.” and “I am your team.” Just that.
In Centering Prayer it’s not like you’re going to hear the audible voice of God. Maybe absolutely nothing will happen except that in silence you’ll acknowledge who you are (beloved child), and who you’re not (God). But maybe God will give you a little nudge..remind you of something, or bring Scripture to mind.
When I returned to the practice of the Examen – reviewing my day and looking for where I was cooperating the most fully with God’s action in my life and where I was resisting – the story was a bit different. I became aware of a heck of a lot of sin that I needed to ask forgiveness for. Clearly when I’m on auto-pilot life is all about Me. But that was just this one day. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed at all the places where the Life and work of God is evident when I stop to look back over my day. Either way, they help me engage with God rather than multi-tasking Him into my life on the moving walkway.
This practicing the presence of God is hard stuff! What do you do to stay awake to Him?