Anderson: Driving in my car with Jesus (column)
Walking Our Faith
I’d just turned onto Upper Bear Creek Road in Evergreen, an incredibly scenic road on any day. But on that day, I snapped off the radio, and through tear-blurred eyes, I began pouring out my heart to Jesus. These few years later, I can’t tell you what weighed so heavily on my heart in that moment. But those car conversations became a regular occurrence that have continued through the present.
I suppose I thought of Jesus as a captive audience, he couldn’t jump out of the car as I was going a heady twenty-five miles an hour. And yes, I realize that from God’s perspective, I was the captive audience since he is omnipresent.
Nevertheless, those conversations are some of the most memorable conversations with God I’ve ever had. In the silence of the car, with only road noise to be heard, I poured out my heart. Sometimes only in my mind, sometimes, when my heart was very troubled, I spoke out loud to Jesus. In the car, as I drove. I didn’t receive any immediate answers, but somehow, I felt better, the pain in my heart was lifted a little. I knew that when times were very difficult, I could take a drive in my car and talk to Jesus and that made my sorrow easier to bear.
I have written often about the need to make time to pray each day. To find a formal prescribed time to meet with God. And I do have those in my life. On Tuesday, I enjoy twenty minutes of centering prayer at St. John’s. On Thursday evening, I attend an hour of Adoration at St. Mary’s, in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Both of these ritualized times are an essential part of my week.
But I’ve discovered sacred silence has crept into other parts of my life as well. Not scheduled, but as a natural outgrowth of how my life is changing.
A few months ago, I ‘cut the cable’. I still have Internet service and access to a handful of local channels and PBS, but that’s it. At first the transition felt like withdrawal. Then, I found my favorite political news channel was live streaming via the Internet. So, I listened to that 24/7. On weekends, I’d listen to audiobooks, watch PBS, or listen to classical music.
But an interesting thing happened. I found myself turning off first the cable TV live stream, then the audiobooks, then the classical music. Yes, I’d still listen to an hour or two a day, but afterwards, I no longer needed background noise.
Instead, I listened to the sound of the hummingbirds that visit the feeders outside my window. I hear traffic in the distance, but I also hear the wind in the trees. And in this silence, where no artificial time limits were imposed as they are during my scheduled times of centering prayer or Adoration, I found myself drifting to conversations with God just as I’d done in my car.
These conversations flowed naturally, as if a friend were in the room. I was open, uninhibited in my conversations with Jesus perhaps even more than I would have been if I’d been speaking with a friend.
I cannot adequately describe how meaningful it is for me to sit in the presence of Jesus when I sit before the Blessed Sacrament during the weekly hour of Adoration. I have been doing it weekly for three years and I still feel honor and awe and joy.
But when I’m at home, or on a walk, or in my car, and purposely turn off the noise, the sacred silence I enter into feels more intimate, as if in the silence I am finally open enough to not only pour out my heart, but in the silence, experience God’s presence.
There is something that happens when I enter a space of silence, which allows me to strip away my busy mind and open my heart to honest conversation. When I am in the sacred silence, it’s just me and Jesus. It is when I am my most authentic, not trying to reach a standard of holiness, but simply being myself, full of flaws and self-doubt. And maybe that is when God can best reach me, when my familiar ground becomes God’s Holy Ground.
When God needed to encourage Abram, the Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That’s how many descendants you will have.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord was pleased with him. (Genesis 15:5)
Wen God needed to Elijah to understand God’s presence, he came to him… there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And God said, “Here I am,”(1 King 19:12)
When we feel most alone, God says, “When you pass through troubled waters, I will be with you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Perhaps the miracle of finding God in our everyday silence is discovering that he is always with us.
My moments of sacred silence aren’t planned. They occur naturally, unexpectedly. More regularly as I understand the gift they represent. God always with us. We don’t have to go looking for him. Turn off the noise that creates a barrier between us, enter into the silence and hear the word of the Lord.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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