Letters To God
While sorting through a bin of items from my childhood, I came across several pages of prayer journals. In different phases of my life, I would write my prayers to God in letter form. The letters are written in such familiar language, as though I was writing a letter to a best friend. They made me smile. Some of my letters were written during normal times where nothing extraordinary or desperate was happening. Others were written during relatively difficult periods of time. But they were all very honest and trusting. They were also all handwritten, which means I made the effort to steal away and share my heart with my God.
In particular, these letters reminded me that I am currently far from the place where make such a concerted effort to pray. I pray, yes. But they are shorter, more fleeting prayers: praying with the kids before bed, praying a Hail Mary during the day. There is a place for those prayers inserted into the daily routine, to be sure. But there is also, I think, a need and a place to slow ourselves down and let the world melt away and connect with our Creator on a more intentional level.
How Quickly We Forget
I have to smile and shake my head a bit at how, despite all the changes in technology and industry and convenience, human nature really changes very little. For example, the Israelites witnessed God parting an entire sea to save them from the pursuit of Pharaoh and sustained them with manna. They so soon forgot, however, and built idols made of gold. Similarly, I forget so easily the balance, peace, and joy that is in my life when I intentionally spend time with God.
I know, historically, that the times where I am the most peaceful, the most grounded, and have the most perspective are the times in my life when I make time to pray. There was the summer I babysat several days a week and, while the kids napped, I would spend the time in devotion. There was the spring I went through a break-up and met God daily in my sorrow. There were many times when nothing in particular was going on, and I just acknowledged it was important and made the time.
But then I get comfortable. I let my priorities subtly, yet consistently shift. In those phases of life, when fleeting prayers are all that sustains me, something significant is out of balance. I am quicker to anger. I am more easily burdened by the stressors of life. I lose perspective on what is truly important. The Israelites and I? We have more in common than I’d like to think.
Making God Time A Priority
I am always going to be busy, though as the years go on the business takes on different forms. In high school, it was extracurriculars, and calculus homework. In early married life it was graduate school and learning how to be a teacher. Now, it’s three children aged five and under who are always hungry and who leave a trail of toy wreckage in their wake.
My husband recently (and gently) pointed out that I have many Martha-like tendencies. I spin many plates. Most of them necessary. I spin the plates of meal planning, house-keeping, playing with the kids, writing, and planning ahead so our family has what we need. Anxiety doesn’t rule my life, but there is more of it that I’d prefer when I am always focusing on the plates I spin, instead of looking up beyond the plates, to the One who created these gifts in my life. The gifts of food to eat, and a home to keep, and children to love, and a brain that loves to create and plan.
Amidst the business, there must still be time for God. Yes, he is there with us in the chaos. But he is also there, waiting for us to spend time with Him. He is there, in the quiet of our bedroom, or backyard, or coffee shop. He is there, in the Eucharist at each and every Catholic parish. He waits for us there in a full and real and tangible way.
Prior to becoming Catholic, I had access to God in many beautiful ways and many beautiful places through my Christian faith.
But one of the many significant gifts I have access to now through being Catholic, is the gift of Adoration. When I am weary, when I am burdened, I can go to my parish, and sit with my Savior. After our Mary/Martha conversation, I knew I was past due for some time sitting at my Savior’s feet.
So I went to Eucharistic Adoration. I entered to the scent of incense, a symbol of the prayers of the people rising up to God. I didn’t go with any specific agenda, or prayer requests in mind. I just wanted to slow down and remember what it felt like to be with God.
Through the brief time I was able to spend in Adoration, I found it was difficult to slow down my ever quickly moving mind. I realized it’s probably pretty tricky for God to get through to me sometimes when my own brain is moving a million miles an hour. I need to remember to slow down. I didn’t have any lightning bolt revelations, or earth-shattering clarity. But I did have rest. How beautiful is it that God is always there waiting for us? He is there in Adoration, in the Eucharist, in all those created in His image, in the world He set into motion in a universe filled with stars, voids, gravity, and light.
He is so patient with us. He finds us where we are, and makes Himself available for us to come to him. Where he veils himself in something so humble as the bread and the wine. Which, when I think about the immensity of God, isn’t that different from when He veiled His glory in the body of a human man.
It humbles. It inspires awe.
And so, I will go again to the feet of my Lord until I remember how to slow down my mind, to sit and to be, and to let Him fill me with his peace and His love. Then, I know, I will be able to accept with peace whatever it is that may come my way. Perhaps next time, I will once again bring a notebook and a pen, and remember what it is to share my ordinary and extraordinary burdens and joys with my God. And then to put the pen down, be still, and remember what it is to listen and to soak in His love for me.