Over twenty years ago I attended a class taught by Sister Rita Pancera on centering prayer: silence, abide with the Loving Mystery. I told Sr. Rita that sometimes in prayer I feel like God is telling me something, but I hear the message in my own voice. The point of centering prayer isn’t to latch on to thoughts or images—anything—but who wants to turn down Divine Assistance? I asked her, “How can I be sure that the words come from God and not just from myself?” Her answer continues to shape my spirit: “What makes you think God wouldn’t use your own voice to tell you something?”
That was the wisdom of a woman who had spent years in prayer, and I’ve not only shared it with others, but also let myself be liberated and humbled by its implications. In every place and at all times, God might have something to say. And I’m in no position to put limits on how God speaks and through whom. (The dandelion doesn’t command the sun.)
I heard God on blogging friend Melanie Lynn Griffin’s post about her past career, in which she and a group of colleagues met with a Navajo group to teach them about persuasion. Turns out they have no such word in their language. The young listen to their elders and don’t argue with them. After a moment of beautiful laughter and understanding, one of the elders said, “This persuasion must be a job for our young people. It is new to learn and they must lead us.” God speaks through a Navajo man. (Thanks, Melanie.)
I heard God on Winding Road when blogging friend Kerry, whose family recently lost nearly everything in a flood, charted her grieving and recovering with a moving insight: “Reclaiming order sometimes means deconstructing first and one cannot build back up until walls have been torn down.” God speaks through a young mother who got knocked down and is trying to get back up. (Thanks, Kerry.)
I heard God yesterday while reading this: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” God speaks through Mahatma Gandhi.
And during morning prayer, I heard God use my voice. It was a mind-whisper: Enjoy. It seems I’ve been turning damned near everything in my life into a program, something to be worked at, a goal to be pursued with one eye on the clock. I haven’t been enjoying my present embarrassment of blessings in my blood and in the cavern of my chest where anxiety has been an intractable squatter.
“Enjoy,” my spirit says. I’ve come to believe in a peculiar miracle: I don’t think God speaks to me directly, though that would be something. Rather, God helps me to hear myself—but only if I sit still. And what I heard in merciful silence was a cardinal calling out to his mate. “Listen,” I said. “Receive this song, this beauty.” In an instant I understood what God longed for me to hear.
The people I love and the gorgeous world exist for their own sake, but they also exist for me. “Enjoy,” God said in my throat. “All of this is for you.” And so, sitting propped up in bed before sunrise, my spirit flew open like a door caught by the wind. As if on cue, I began enjoying.
Micah’s alarm went off. Because I could sleep, I didn’t go through the routine: stopping at his door at about 7:15 and making sure he is awake. “You up, Scooter?” I sometimes say. Or “Cupcake.” Or “Your Royal Dudeness.” Or “Fart-breath.” I go with whatever pops into my head. He always answers, “Yup.” But praying, I listened to him clomp around downstairs like a camel in wooden shoes. I didn’t mind. He was off to work, being a man, propelling his own ass out of bed. My son is well.
Because Kathy didn’t have to be to work until 9:30, we went out for breakfast. She savored sleeping in, and I savored our kiss when I dropped her off.
I took lunch to daughter Elena and got to hang out with her and grandson Cole. “Enjoy,” echoed in my chest, and darned if I didn’t. Vegetarian hippie food. We talked. I got to hold Cole, place my lips on his bald head, breathe in the perfume that still lingers from when God kissed him in the womb. And I snuffled his neck like a dog, which made him laugh. The whole time, I watched my daughter be a stunningly good mother. I’m so proud my eyeballs want to go flying out of their baggy sockets.
The afternoon offered itself to me. I napped, prayed for forty minutes, cleaned up the kitchen, and made the dining room presentable.
Micah got home from work. My God! My son, just two years ago a heroin asshole, blesses me every day with his goodness. On Mother’s Day, he came home with a bright bouquet and card for Kathy. A quote: “To the Mom who invented fun, creativity, and a wonderful imagination in me. And taught me 50% of what I know about love and compassion.”
A couple weeks ago I raged at God about some grievous assaults on children. I didn’t enjoy my rant, but as I sit here now I give thanks for the sense that prayer is about offering to God whatever I am. So glad or furious or quietly depressed, I fall backward into God. It’s the trust game kids play: fall and I promise to catch you. My game is a little different, like letting go into forever. If God’s catch isn’t unconditional, my soul will shatter. I don’t have much choice here. I don’t know any other way to be with God, so I fall and try to trust. Enjoy isn’t a sacred enough word for the safe landing.
Of course, even if my soul doesn’t shatter, other things will: sickness, disappointment, floods. So for now, I receive the cardinal’s call, my wife’s kiss, the sweet breath of God on Cole’s head, and every other way God shines on this fifty-two-year-old flowering weed named John.
You just summed up my entire spiritual philosophy.
Hey, that makes me smart!
Kickass is right. You are one smart person I know who can pull off being smart and a smart-ass at the same time. Cheers, John
Thanks for the reminder to listen to my sacred inner voice…and to enjoy!
Hey, Sally. Guess we just have to keep reminding each other, huh? John
Beautiful, insightful post. The Gandhi quote is one of the quotes I try to live by. I look forward to perusing your blog. Be well. ~Karen~
Hi, Karen. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be checking out your blog as well. Peace and best, John
To enjoy…I must remind myself of that more often. So many good things happening around me right now, and sometimes I just rush right through it. Enjoy…that is very good advice, my friend.
Thanks, Rose. Funny how one crappy thing can . . . well . . . crap on ten good things. On the journey with you. John
I just love how you can make me feel so aligned to you (…for I, too, experience so much of what you write here) even though I don’t philosophically align to your specific thinking. (If that makes any sense at all.) 🙂
I guess I’m trying to say that if I take my views on religion out of the mix, your words fully resonate with me. I hear the universe speaking to me, in my own voice, often.
Hey, there. What you say makes perfect sense! It’s all about Thich Nhat Hanh and “interbeing.” We all “inter-are,” despite all our efforts to the contrary. So glad we’re aligned, sister. John
John~I’m so backed up on reading blogs but sought yours out tonight because your writing soothes me. And then I noticed the kind words about me, thank you.
God speaks to me in so many ways daily and I listen and grasp onto the messages tightly. “Enjoy” is a perfect message.
Side note, your writing lifts when you talk about Cole, not sure if you’ve noticed that or not. Really lovely. xo
Hey, Kerry. Yeah, you know, everything about me lifts when Cole is in the picture. Please know I’m thinking about you and yours all the time, hoping you’re not overwhelmed, just whelmed. I got the book off to the printer today, so I can keep tabs on my blogging buds better now–you included. Peace and energy, John
I love to read your stories John .
I love to write them, so I’m glad a few kindred spirits like to read them. Peace, John
Thanks for sharing my Navajo story. God’s voice, indeed.
I should have known you were a centering prayer type – don’t know where I’d be without it!