I've always been a big fan of Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest, professor, and author who wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. In his Genesse Diary, Nouwen shares what it's like to live in a Trappist Monastery (where he spent seven months); more specifically, he reflects on his struggles with silence. He writes, "If I could just live the day quietly, then my mind would be more vacant for God and freer for the simple things of every moment."
Lately I've been trying to make my mind more vacant for God and be more aware of life's simple things. It isn't easy. I have to fight the instinct to reach for my phone as soon as I wake up; after all, I think I have to read emails, see Facebook status updates, and check the weather right away. I like to tell myself that going for a walk or run is my way of quietly creating room for God, but nine times out of ten, I listen to music or go with a friend, and am thinking or talking about other things. I wish I could say that I easily share my joys and challenges with God through prayer, and try to discern where He is leading me, but that isn't the case. I text a friend or family member. I react without thinking. I believe all problems are mine alone to solve. I enjoy arguing rather than responding with compassion.
Nouwen writes, "God dwells only where man steps back to give him room." It's difficult to step back. To be silent. To make space for grace and "the simple things of every moment". Americans glorify being busy, being social....we often equate stillness with laziness. But it is in the stillness of our lives that beautiful things, the simple things, are revealed. My husband Mark is quick to make a pot of coffee and scramble some eggs for us on Saturday mornings. It's no big deal to him, but when I take the time to really see what he is doing, I realize he is giving me a gift. He's allowing me a little extra time in bed, a little more quiet, and a chance to start the day without having to exert any effort to get the things I enjoy....this is a blessing. "We are all graced with an inner loveliness, the hidden richness that is Christ. This is there within all of us and, if revealed in our lives and through our actions, can bring delight to those we encounter." When I am intentional about stepping back and focusing on the moment, I am delighted by Mark's thoughtfulness and generosity.
The hidden richness that is Christ. Space for grace.
Nouwen tells the story of visiting a hermit on the grounds of Genesee. The old man said, “Isn’t the rain beautiful? Why do we keep resisting rain? Why do we only want the sun when we should be willing to be soaked by the rain? The Lord wants to soak us with his grace and love. Isn’t it marvelous when we can feel the Lord in so many ways and get to know him better and better! He lets us experience his presence even now in all that surrounds us. Imagine how it must be when we can see him face-to-face!”
I'm going to keep trying to step back and give God room, to feel Him "in so many ways", and to make time for silence in hopes that my mind will be "freer for the simple things of every moment." Like a morning walk spent listening only to the birds. Like the cup of coffee brought to me in bed. God is soaking us with His grace and love; we just have to be quiet sometimes to feel it.