Reflection, Contemplation, and Prayer: A Triad of Spiritual Awareness
Part 6: The End of the Beginning
In the realm of prayer and contemplation, experience is the key word. We experience our experience of prayer as a special thing/time/process in which we practice various techniques and apply specific methods. Our experience is one of being an adventurer, beginning that amazing journey for the first time–even though we may have passed “this way” many times before. Unknown lands and unimagined vistas await us, but first, we must figure out how to navigate the ticket counter and endure the long boring bus ride.
That bus is taking us to those places we have dreamed of, seen in our minds, and felt in our hearts. We KNOW those places are real and waiting for us, but the journey to get there (at least at this early stage) is duplicitous and numbing. Somehow the miles of anticipation are sucked dry by the distance yet untraveled. We rally by re-reading that National Geographic we brought along and by re-living the dream, forcing to mind the excited conversations we had about the journey before we left. For a while we are satisfied with our progress, but just before we fade into sleep, the noisy brakes squeal and the bus lurches to a stop at yet another road-side diner.
History and well-written memoirs have chronicled more than one starry-eyed adventurer who turned back, depressed and dissuaded by the monotony of the road. How eagerly we start our journey, but how tragic can be our ending. So it can be with spiritual progress. Our journey, while it resembles that earlier adventurer is different in that, as we travel, the ride itself is part of the journey, not simply a means-to-an-end. Those road-side diners aren’t just delays keeping us from the far-off vistas, but incredible opportunities in and of themselves!
Experience is the key word here. We experience our experience of prayer as a special thing/time/process, linearly not linear; it is a state of being rather than a state of doing.
The fits and starts we have discussed here are mostly unavoidable as you begin this journey; but unlike our ill-fated counterpart, your bus ride actually began long before you bought that ticket. Perhaps the greatest attestation to your effort to pray and grow in your spiritual life is your pre-experienced awareness of the presence of God. You may feel you are far along on this journey or maybe just starting out; either way now is the time to revisit how you got here.
Think back on it. You wanted to grow closer to God, to pray, to grow in your spiritual life. You have undertaken the steps and are dedicated to the process through discipline and devotion–and this is true, but now look again. Read this out loud:
Jesus is pulling me closer. God is speaking to me through prayer and giving me eyes that see all in spiritual beauty. I am a handmaid of the most high, a son of the living God! I belong to God and I am following Jesus.
And there it is. You didn’t start this, God did. You have always known it, but the miles have obscured and confused this truth. As a child that has wandered too far from home, plagued by a sense of distant belonging–no matter how old, you long to go back. There you know you will be safe and secure and loved–that special love, again. This is the way you must see and know your life from now on; God is your home. The Father has been providing and Jesus has been walking and the Holy Spirit has been talking with you all along. To look around is to see God at work; to look inside is to see Divine peace. Home is where your heart is.
The longer you seek after the presence and awareness of Christ in your life the more easily you will see and know him to be. Interrupted prayer time, wandering mind, fractured attention span, and another road-side diner, are all experiences of the presence of God and your growth in the spirit!
There is much more to learn and experience, God is every moment of every moment showing you the Way. With Jesus as your companion on this journey, you will experience unknown lands and unimagined vistas in everything you do. If you would like some companionship navigating the ticket counter or just sitting with you on the bus, I am here for you.
A million miles along and unimaginable distances to go…
On the journey with Christ,
Father Bill Burk†