“Any Tree in my Path Seems to have More Power than He…”
The Lord (Week 4 of 23)
God counts only when people permit him to, when they and their demands leave me time for him. God rules only in spite of people; when under their influence I am not too strongly tempted to feel that he does not exist at all. He reigns inasmuch as consciousness of his presence is able to force itself upon me, to coexist with the people in my life…Things also rule in me: things I desire, by the power of that desire; things that bother me, by their bothersomeness; things I encounter wherever I go, by the attraction they have for me or by the attention which they demand.Things in general, by their very existence, fill the spiritual ‘space’ both within and around me, not God. God is present in me only when the crowding, all-absorbing things of my world leave room for him — either in or through them, or somewhere on the periphery of their existence. No, God certainly does not dominate my life. Any tree in my path seems to have more power than he, if only because it forces me to walk around it. What would life be like if God did rule in me? — The Lord (Part 1: Chapter VII, Paragraph 8)
We often tell ourselves that “tomorrow” we will set the demands of life aside and make time for God. That “tomorrow,” when this project is complete, when this event has passed, when the demands of life wane, then we will make time for God. And yet, those who have found the most peace and happiness have found it within the chaos and challenges that confront them from day to day. They have mastered the practice of finding God “in or through them, or somewhere in the periphery…” God is there. And His presence enables those peaceful souls to find an abundance of joy in the demands, struggles, and the regular hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Guardini is so right when he claims that any tree is more powerful than God, if only because it forces me to walk around it. God is both demanding and at the same time very quiet. Objectively we know that He desires our all, for the Greatest Commandment leaves no room for doubt:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. — Matthew 22:37
He demands that we give Him our all; but in reality, He waits patiently for us to include him. He is the polite dinner guest who will not barge into a conversation uninvited. He is the kind neighbor who never borrows your tools or demands that you keep your dog out of his yard. Rather than wave or shout or stomp his feet and jump up and down, God merely sits in quiet companionship, pleased to be in our midst, willing to step in at our first effort to invite him into our lives.
He is patient and kind; He is not jealous or boastful; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful… (God is Love; quote borrowed with editorial license from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
How do we make a guest feel welcome? How do we practice hospitality? We take pains to make Him feel at home. We acknowledge His presence in the midst of our appointments, commitments, struggles, chores. We offer our thoughts to Him; our words as loving expressions chosen especially for Him; our actions for His Glory. We direct our thoughts toward Him. We say only those things that would please Him. We plan activities that would make Him feel at home as He engages in them with us.
The devil loves to keep us wrapped up in our daily struggles, feeling as though somehow God stands outside of our “regular” lives, and that we can encounter Him only to the extent that we can get past all the obstacles that stand in our way. It’s so easy to forget that those “obstacles” are often opportunities for us to serve God in the moment, through the people He places in our path. It’s often easy to forget the importance of serving daily in love the most important people in our lives. This is true of those we love most on earth; but it seems so much more challenging to give our undying devotion for a Love whom we can’t see. A love who doesn’t stand before us in full color every moment of every day.
Thankfully, Christ offers the Second Greatest Commandment as practical instruction on how to manifest the first:
Love your neighbor as yourself. — Matthew 22:39
In fact, God offers specific examples of how that love might manifest itself – through the Corporal Works of Mercy:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’“— Matthew 25:34-40
Let us take the pains necessary to keep a fallen tree from having more power in our lives than The All-Powerful God. The demands of life will not step aside, that we might spend time acknowledging Our Lord. True, it is important that we take time for the Sacraments, for prayer and spiritual reading; but let that not be all. Let us seek him amidst all the cares of the world. Within our relationships. As part of each contact we make with every soul we meet.
When it comes to our relationship with God, we must acknowledge His Kingship over every thought, word or action every moment of every day. Particularly in those moments involving contact with other souls along our journey through this earthly life. For in serving others, we are truly acknowledging and loving Him. Not after our day’s work is done, but in the midst of it. For if God doesn’t feel welcome at our dinner table, how can we possibly expect to feel welcome at His?
Part II: Chapter 1-4
1. How do you make time for God on a day to day basis?
2. NOTE: Somehow I pulled my above discussion quote from last week’s assignment. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice until I finished writing, so I’m going with it – sorry about the oversight! I think in 5+ years, this may be the first time I’ve done this – oops! Please forgive me – I’m coming off hosting a 4th of July celebration and then throwing a huge surprise 50th birthday party for my husband this past weekend!
As next week’s discussion will continue to move forward, please feel free to comment on anything from this week – there was definitely a lot to contemplate!
For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club