There was a time in my life when reading the wise words of some faraway monk sufficed in motivating me to a life of greater solitude and spiritual discipline. I wondered why it was so difficult for most people to find time for God when it came so easily for me. Naturally, at every naïve crossroads I have faced in my years, there is always a lesson in humility waiting for me there.
Now I have five children. My oldest two, the ones we had early on in our marriage, are growing up. Life has suddenly, in the last two years, become incredibly complex. The early morning hours that were once reserved for prayer and meditation have been replaced by infant feedings and diaper changes—which are then followed by a quick rush to feed all the hungry mouths, lastly my own.
There is beauty in the esoteric musings of those distant religious who live in rustic communities and follow the rhythms and rules of life that most of us lay people could only fathom. The reality is that the majority of modern Catholics do not live hermetic lifestyles, and we are not called to, either.
How, then, can we sort and sift through the constant distractions and interruptions and busyness and noise in order to hear the One True Voice above all others? The voice of God, the One who speaks intimately to us each day?
“All that is from God makes no noise. Nothing is sudden, everything is delicate, pure, and silent.”Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, 187
God does not operate in tempests and pandemonium. He exists in the right order, which creates a cadence of harmony in our lives. In that, we find peace. Of course, each of us carries our fair share of chaos and stress, but if we truly want to find the voice of God speaking directly to us and be confident it is Him, we must weed out the excess that gets in the way.
In my experience, God speaks in spurts and in surprising ways and at unexpected times. A friend of mine once said, “God wants our prayers to be specific.” So I started praying with specificity and noticed that God’s replies weren’t always in the lightning bolts I anticipated. Instead, they were in patterns and puzzle pieces that brought clarity over time.
“Silence is an extremely necessary element in the life of every man. It enables the soul to be recollected. It protects the soul against the loss of its identity. It predisposes the soul to resist the temptation to turn away from itself to attend to things outside, far from God.”Robert Cardinal Sarah, ibid
A life without silence quickly becomes suffocating. There will be days in which you had no quiet, no time for recollection, no opportunity for reflection. During those seasons of your life when silence seems a luxury, find ways to steal moments of solitude.
For me, these happen in ten-minute walks with my dog around the block on a hectic afternoon with teething toddlers and whiny elementary-aged kids. They happen when I step outside for the quick jaunt to the mailbox and notice a blue swallowtail flutter past or hear the distant shriek of a peregrine falcon.
You see, God speaks to us using His creation all the time. And these are powerful messengers if we learn the art of paying attention.
“In everyday life, prayer will take [this form]: the ordinary activity continues, but something inside remains silently united to the one whom we love and who loves us, a loving presence that is enough to fill the heart. When we no longer live ‘with’ but rather one in the other, since the person praying is not in control of the work that God is doing in him, he simply unites himself to this mystery, without needing to know the contours of it. He does not ask for explanations.”Ibid
When you’ve learned to attune yourself to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, you will be aware of His presence in you at all times. Sometimes God chooses to sleep in us, and we don’t notice Him moving or working. Other times, we have a distant but keen awareness that God is accompanying us through a difficult decision or terrifying prognosis.
One day we come to a realization that all we do throughout our days are done in and with Him. Even when we do not consciously or formally make an offering to God, the union we share with Him is so obvious that we don’t need to speak but just be. In that being, we discover the place where we end and God begins is a very short thread.