I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve entered my fifth decade with little success establishing a schedule for daily prayer or meditation in spite of best intentions and plentiful attempts through the years.
Instead, my practice is to be mindful, to spontaneously speak to the ‘divine’ throughout my day, lifting up my thoughts, my quandaries, my appeals for help. This means I have not developed the best listening skills. I want to recognize divine messages, but usually fail to comprehend them in all the distraction of daily activity.
When I struggle with a difficult life question, or have nagging ideas that just won’t let me be, I seek out wisdom of those who seem to have traveled further along the spiritual path. I read, I pray, talk with respected friends and occasionally with clergy. After a time, sometimes years, when there comes no clear insight or firm understanding into forward progress, I sigh with vexation over my pitifully slow receptors of divine signs, petitioning the universe for guidance and hoping for some reply and dare I say it?… an obvious answer.
For heaven’s sake! Why, for me, must it feel like such a wrestling match?
I am an ordinary person like many described in the scriptures, and they received direct messages! I have been a loyal follower with an available ear my whole life; couldn’t some mercy be shown to me with an occasional answer coming to me in a burning bush or an angelic visitation or a mountaintop stone tablet?
Almost two years ago, I attended a church leadership retreat to participate in planning and workshops there. During the event, an acquaintance must have observed the perpetual perplexity in my expression and in group discussions. Toward the end of the event she quietly sat beside me and asked, “Have you ever considered spiritual direction?” She explained that she was completing the instruction phase in her training as a spiritual director and entering the phase that required someone to ‘direct’.
Whoa! What??!! ….answers indeed! Now that was an obvious message!
And it was delivered with no angelic interpretation required, no climb up rocky cliffs, no trip through a whale’s innards! There it was in plain English, certain to obtain my full attention. Although I had minimal idea what spiritual direction entailed, I knew it was an important invitation for me; an opportunity, probably a life-changing one, and I was anxious to accept.
Since then, we’ve been meeting monthly to explore spiritual journey together. We open with time of silence, sometimes a reading or a prayer, and then I’ll share what is most on my mind or a persistent idea that’s been part of recent days, thinking out loud about matters of the spirit. She listens, asks questions, and graciously guides me as we quietly talk together. She has patiently reminded me (several times!) to wait for ‘God’s timing’. There have been shared smiles and laughter, a little wailing and gnashing of teeth (me), gentle probing questions offered up for contemplation (her), and soul-inspiring moments pure and sacred-sweet.
Through wise and generous direction, she becomes extended senses for me, helping me to recognize where threads of the divine are woven through so much of my living….and I find myself, step by step, going toward new understanding.
I still don’t have an established daily meditation, no quick and easy instructions from the heavens, no game show ‘life line’ equivalent to reach out for certain enlightenment.
Instead I have the long awaited response to petitions: I have the generosity of a wise friend who is willing to walk beside me as I journey forward, pointing out the important markers along the way. I have the awareness that even though I still talk more than listen, I am exactly who I was created to be, so God is just fine with listening to me.
Now, when I find myself wrestling, there is reassurance in marrow-deep recognition that God is already present with my every breath, so there is no need to desperately hold on all through a dark night begging for the blessing of an answer.
It will appear in God’s time.