Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”
Still your mind and you will find the Lord. Be silent and let Him come to you. For we find God in the stillness and silence within us. Otherwise we are mostly driven by the repetitive and loud thoughts in our minds, the “shoulds” and the “ought tos” that we learned as children: thoughts about how we look, how we’re behaving, about being “nice” to others, about what we are to do now, what we have to believe, and much more. What our minds serve up to us in a loud and clear voice keeps us in the world when we pay attention and follow their suggestions. They keep us tied to our looks, to what we want to have, to our agendas, to our work, distracted from God.
As I’ve written about in the past month of posts about surrender and discernment, we need to step back from the mind’s power over us and become an observer of these thoughts, interested in their sources, but no longer under their power. Then we can be present to the present moment, available to God, to hear His quiet voice within us, to feel His presence, to be His faithful servant. When we step out of our mind’s and the world’s influence over us, there is God waiting for us with love and forgiveness, just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). It doesn’t matter what we’ve done; it only matters that we’re attentive to God, that we repent of all that we have done. He celebrates as each of us turns back to Him.
He won’t always speak to us when we are sitting in silence, but still He knows what we are doing and why. At times, some of us sense His presence in our bodies—say in the crown of our head, chills running up and down our arms, tears coming to our eyes. How do you experience the presence of God? I am sure there are many different ways. Over time as we get more and more removed from our thoughts and more and more invested in His presence, we will have experiences of Him in the silence. We will also sense His presence and see His help at other times, just because we are really coming to know His gifts and blessings, his challenges and sayings to us.
Here are a few things God has said to me over the years I have followed Him. First, it was “I have an agenda for my life.” At the time I was a wife and mother, and content with those roles. But as I thought about having an agenda perhaps beyond those two roles, I started to ask a different question when presented with an invitation or a choice: “What do I really want to do?” instead of “What should I be doing?” And that made a huge difference in my life to follow my own heart’s desires.
The second thing I heard God say to me in my mind was this: “How can I say I love God if I can’t love my mother?” In my 40’s I was still a pretty rebellious teenager towards her. So I began a long two-year journey trying to love her, pretty unsuccessfully, I will say, until my husband and I spent a weekend with her in Wilmington DE and she saw us off at the railroad station. There on the platform, we were surrounded by a cloud of love. And that changed everything! All the way to Connecticut all I could think was this: God took my rebelliousness and made it into love! From then on, I could love her as she was, and she was grateful for every single thing I did for her.
The third words I remember God saying to me came as my husband’s lymphoma came back three months after he had been declared cancer free. I was terrified, but this is what I heard: “If I can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then…” After I was able to surrender to this thought, I was given a gift of faith that was wide and deep, like I was standing on the rock that Jesus talked about (Matthew 7:24). He died two and a half months later, but I was so held during that time that I could support him, our adult kids, and our friends through this passage. After the memorial service I dropped into my grief, but I never once was angry at God for taking him from me. A few years later it was clear that the Lord had a whole new life ready for me to step into. I was already a spiritual director, but soon I was a blogger and then an author. Everything I write is from the lens of a spiritual director: how we live this life devoted to God. It is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done along with loving my husband and raising our children.
Along with these sentences that seemed to be spoken aloud in my mind, I sense the Lord’s leading in suggestions from other people to me that seem to resonate in me and in nudges that come with pictures of what I am to do or where I am to go that I feel throughout my days—the Lord communicates subtly, but recognizably—He doesn’t think like I do! The Lord leading us is the greatest gift He has given us, because we come to know that whatever He suggests will lead us to a more fulfilling, joyful life. Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I ever heard God speak in my mind? How did I distinguish His voice form the ones of my mind? If not, have I ever practiced stilling my mind through meditating or Centering Prayer? How much do I want to hear His voice in me?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are directed by Him in all that we do. May we wait for God’s direction throughout our days. May we be resting in His arms.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.