How you listen to God may differ from how I listen to God—because we’re different people with different experiences. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we respond to our encounters with God differently. Instead, we lean in and listen. We swap stories and verses. We feel the a living God move among us. The mystery of God, in the end, refuses to be pinned down. -Ben Brazil
Yes! I see that every day. How you listen or watch for or sense the Divine may differ from how I listen for or watch for or sense the Divine and from how your best friend listens for or watches for or senses the Divine. I may love quiet contemplation, and you may go crazy trying to sit still. You may love nature and I may be frightened to enter the woods. I may love old hymns and you may find that style of music b-o-r-i-n-g. You may love liturgical prayer, and I may find it stilted and stifling.
It seems that almost everyone who comes to me for spiritual direction feels compelled at the start to tell me something like “I just can’t get into meditation or centering prayer.” Or “I have to admit I don’t have a consistent prayer practice.” They say it with sadness, and sometimes shame. Like they are missing out on something, something they really want.
And you know what? They are. They are missing out on something big, something they really want: a sense of connection to the Divine, to something bigger than themselves, to All-That-Is. But they are not missing out because they “can’t do” centering prayer, or don’t find the Lord’s Prayer meaningful anymore, or are finding more spiritual depth at yoga than at church.
No. They are missing out because they are not paying attention to how God is speaking to them. They are fixating on what they’ve been told is “the way” or how they see other people experiencing God. When in conversation we delve a little more deeply, we almost always find that they do in fact know how to “open the line” to God and have just for various reasons fallen out of doing that thing.
We Don’t Control God, But We Can Put Ourselves In The Way of Grace
Recently I found myself saying to a new directee: We don’t control our relationship with God, but what I find is that almost always if I look for God, I find God. Connection comes by grace, but we can put ourselves in the way of grace. So what do you do that puts you in the way of God? What brings you joy and vitality? What lights you up? Where have you experienced God in the past?
In her case, it was dance. And she hadn’t danced in quite a while. So I suggested that she might use 5 minutes of her lunch break to close her office door, put on some music, and dance. Not as a spiritual “discipline”. Not as in “I’m a bad person if I don’t do this every single day.” But as a way of delighting in her connection to the Universe, to the Divine, to Love.
How Do You Put Yourself “In The Way” of God or Grace?
If nothing comes to mind, think about these questions:
- What brings you joy and vitality?
- What lights you up?
- Where have you experienced God in the past?
Don’t dismiss something (like dance) because it doesn’t seem “spiritual” enough.
Want To Try Something New?
Here are some of the many ways I have seen people putting themselves in the way of God, intentionally opening to a connection with something larger than themselves:
- Music and song (and the silence that resonates when the sound ends, and the way a lick of the song will come to mind at an opportune moment days or months later)
- Reading or study of sacred texts (including lectio divina)
- The practice of lament
- Walking, running, chopping wood, or other repetitive motion
- Tracking their dreams
- Sacred circles of intentional conversation and/or prayer
- Spiritual direction
- Art and creativity, including both making and viewing
- Centering prayer or meditation or silence
- Dance, yoga, and other body movement
- Being out in nature
- Rosary and other traditional prayers
- Prayer (of various types)
- Paying attention to the voices of wise friends, elders, children, and random strangers
- Examen (the simplest form being just consistently paying attention to what energizes you and what drains you.
- Service, especially to those in the margins
- Writing, whether blog posts or sermons or letters to friends
- Walking a labyrinth
- Experiencing the love and joy of pets
Some of these may sound simple or even silly to you. But for someone else, they may be a means of “putting themselves in the way of grace.” They may be ways of opening themselves to noticing Holy Nudges, Holy Insights, or the Presence of God. In that event, I would venture to even call them spiritual practices.
What about you? How do you put yourself in the way of God?