Walking Our Faith: Entering the spiritual wilderness
Walking Our Faith
“Those who see the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” — Psalm 34:10
Those might be difficult words to hold onto when you’ve been praying for a long time and can’t see things getting better, or things are getting worse.
We entered into the spiritual wilderness with Jesus on Ash Wednesday, and now begins our 40-day journey. If walked with intention, this journey can prepare us for a closer relationship with God. So let’s call this our own spiritual wilderness experience.
What tools do we need during this 40-day journey? Traditionally we are called to pray, fast and give alms to the poor. I will focus on each of these over the next three weeks, beginning with what I consider the most important: prayer.
In “The Way of the Heart,” Henri Nouwen wrote, “A spiritual life without prayer is like the gospel without Christ.”
You can’t have one without the other. After all, without a means to actively communicate with God, fasting is just another diet and giving alms is just charity. With prayer, we are called to sacred communion with our creator.
I have spoken previously about different paths of prayer such as centering prayer, praying the rosary, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or simply taking a walk in nature and speaking with God there. Each of these methods are ways to quiet the mind and bring one’s attention into God’s presence.
Today, I want to focus on the prayer that I have found most difficult yet recognize as being the most essential. That is to sit quietly in the presence of God.
I have a personal matter I have been wrestling with for over a year with no answer from God. To be honest, the lack of an answer has put a strain on my relationship with God. There have been moments when I have said, “God, I love you, but do you love me? Do you really have a good plan for my life? Do you really offer a future and a hope? Do you really hear my prayers?”
Even writing those words makes me think of myself as childish. And I know they are said out of frustration with God’s silence. Because of course God loves me. God loves all of us.
Yet, I believe that our ability to truly internalize this truth is a struggle for many of us, because we see our shortcomings, our shame and our failure. We see through the glass darkly, as St. Paul reflected. It is beyond our imagination that God is incapable of seeing us in any other way than as beloved.
Maya Angelou describes reading the line “God loves me” over and over again. “And finally I said, ‘God loves me.’ It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing, I can do it. That’s why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me, and I’m amazed at it. I’m grateful for it.”
That is the place I want to reach. No matter whether I receive the prayer answer that I want or not, I want to experience God’s love for me not as words I write but as a truth that emanates from my heart as sure as it continues to beat while I am asleep.
And so as I approach prayer during Lent, I will be less concerned with the method I use and more concerned with seeking the presence of God each day in prayer.
In “Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart,” the author wrote, “God is not what you think or even what you believe, because God is a word unspoken, a thought unthought, a belief unbelieved. So if you wish to know this God, practice wonder, do what is good, and cultivate silence. The rest will follow.”
How might we do this? Start with five minutes, and simply sit in silence seeking God. God is always with us, always present, so we don’t need to ask him to come near. I believe it is enough to say “Jesus, I love you” and sit and listen for the still small voice which is always whispering in our heart.
Any of the forms of prayer described above can be used, as can simply sitting in silence. But what I know I need to work on is listening for God. I get so caught up with repeating my requests over and over and over. How could God ever be heard over my own voice?
I am headed into the spiritual wilderness with this desire: To find the sacred silence where I will hear God’s voice.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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