Guest contributor: Ed Trego
And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11,13)
Have you ever just sat? Doing nothing, just sitting in a quiet place. Perhaps by yourself or even with others, but quietly, not talking, just sitting. Letting your mind wander, not really concentrating on anything or thinking of anything. If you have, I suspect that your thoughts turned to God at some point. Maybe you didn’t think specifically of God but of his creation; perhaps the sound of the wind through a tree, or a bird singing. Especially when sitting outside on a beautiful, warm, spring day you will surely notice the wonder of the world around you. If so, you are giving glory to God, for you are enjoying is the result of his loving creation.
I remember going to my wife’s family farm not far from the small town where we met, were married, and lived for a while. Her family had lived there and tended the land for generations. It was always a great treat when we got in the car on a Sunday after Mass and headed to the farm. The kids were excited about being able to run freely around the farm. Maybe fish in the pond or even ride “Ol Joe”, the farm work horse. I looked forward to the wonderful meal I knew we would have and the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Dinner, as it usually is on the farm, was always around one or two in the afternoon and the rest of the day was for whatever we chose to do. Many times I chose to put a lawn chair under one of the huge old trees and just sit. Not really thinking, not paying much attention to anything. I don’t think I realized it then but what I was truly doing was opening myself up to God and his many wonders.
So many experiences of God were available to me during these times. The smell of newly mown grass or hay; the song of a bird in the trees; the smell of the apple blossoms in the small orchard; the joyful sounds of my children loving the freedom of openness, all for their fun and exploration.
My favorite of all was when my wife would come and sit beside me, holding my hand. Not talking, just feeling the love pass through our fingers; the love that God has blessed us with throughout our life together.
It’s been many years since I’ve been able to visit the farm. The family is gone now and the farm is owned by a small farming conglomerate. But these memories are still as fresh in my mind and real and treasured as if it were just yesterday.
I’ve come to understand that the peace and quietness of those summer afternoons is something that we, as humans, desperately need and seldom achieve. Our lives are so full and they seem to be getting fuller with each new advance in technology. We are so wired, connected and tied to others that we have very little opportunity to truly get away from it all.
Are you old enough to remember when you left home and didn’t get any phone calls until you got back? There was no such thing as voicemail so you didn’t even know if you’d missed a call while you were gone. It didn’t seem to matter, if it was important they’d call back.
Now we take our phone with us. Not only our phone, but email, texts, facebook, the internet, news and sports alerts and on and on and on. We are never disconnected.
Our well-being as humans, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with God require us to disconnect from the pressures and stresses of daily life. We need the quietness to listen to our inner selves and to hear the whisper of God. If we never get away from our daily grind we risk missing the call of our God. Have you ever tried to hear a whisper in a noisy room? We have to shut out the noise to hear the whisper. God rarely shouts; he speaks softly to us in the quietness of our soul.
In today’s world finding that quiet spot and time can be difficult. But if we are to truly live and know God we must find it. It doesn’t have to be a farm, or any specific place. It can be a quiet time in our home. A time without the TV, radio, computer, stereo or the ever present mobile phone blaring at us. Get rid of the distractions, take some deep breaths, relax and just sit quietly. Listen to God. Reflect on what God has done for you today, yesterday and over the years. Thank him for the many blessings he has given you. Consider the times you’ve perhaps turned from God and ask his forgiveness. But don’t do all the talking, because God has things to say as well. As important as we all think we and our thoughts are, God’s are far more important to our lives.
Listening to God isn’t like listening to your spouse or a friend. There may be a “conversation” but not usually in the sense we think of conversation. I think a better word is “communion”. We need to strive to be in communion with our God at every opportunity. As you learn to listen to God you will be better able to seek his guidance and direction in your daily life. You will want to be in constant communion with him, because that is what our heart truly desires. In The Confessions of St. Augustine, he wrote “for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Take the time, make the effort to listen and get to know God. It will be the best time you’ve ever spent.
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:11)