“Learn the heart of God in the words of God” (Pope Saint Gregory the Great).
These days, most weekday mornings just before 8am, my children and I take a walk to our local oval and walk around the oval a few times, to get some daily exercise.
Each morning we see a variety of people on our walk there. There are a couple of elderly ladies who walk nice and slowly, with lots of rests in between their laps, sitting down for a friendly chat in the early morning sunshine. There is the dad who sprints around the goal posts and up and down the stairs with his two young sons, practising for some sort of imaginary rugby game. There is the mum who chases behind her toddler on his little training bike while calling out to him frantically in Korean to slow down. And there is the woman who runs in laps around the oval in the opposite direction from us and passes us with a puff twice for every one of our laps.
When we first started walking to the park a few weeks ago, as we passed each of these groups of people (and the others walking there) we would smile shyly, making eye contact for a moment, and then look back down at the ground or up at the trees and continue onwards.
Soon though, the shy smiles became warmer smiles, as we greeted each other around the track. Then, there was a little giggle and a wave as we passed each other by.
I have reflected on this process of greeting over the last few weeks as it has developed because it reminds me of my relationships with God.
After all – for me – right at the beginning of my conscious adult relationship with God, I was a little shy. I loved Him and knew Him – like a little child sitting all the way at the back of the crowd. I did not really know how to talk to Him and I did not really know how to pray. For many years when I prayed, I shouted out a list of agenda items to God. Get this done please, look after that please. I was always careful to say thank you and I nearly always remembered to say please, but I was focused very much on getting things actioned – in much the same way I live my life. I did not stop to consult God. I did not ask Him what He wanted. I demanded what I was after and waited for its deliverance… I was like the walker that gives a shy smile for a second and then looks back down at the ground. There was no real connection. There was no real relationship.
And then things happened. Life happened. Sadness came, and suddenly, the “vending machine” God who I had been praying to disappeared and I was left talking to a God who I did not know because He did not just hand me everything on a plate. And I did not know how to deal with Him because if He was not going to just hand me everything that I was demanding, I had no idea what to do with Him. And so, I had to change my approach a little bit... Though I was weak and small and did not know how to do much else, the shy smile was no long enough to get me by… I needed to make praying last longer – not for quantity over quality, but to incorporate prayer more fully into my life. I needed to make sure that I was in continuous communication with God. And so – soon and with a little more effort – I was able to smile warmly at my God, but not for very long…
And still this was not enough. Because I was not close enough to Him and I did not know Him very well – so it was very difficult to trust Him when I did not understand that God is perfect Trust and Perfect Love and Perfect Goodness… It is difficult to trust God if you do not believe that God turns everything to the GOOD. And so, I started asking God what He wanted instead of making my own demands. That takes an awful lot of trust. It sounds so simple really – sounds like the most simple thing – but actually, it is the most profound. There is a huge depth of faith required to say – “Okay God. Do whatever You will. Let Your will be done.” Such a thing is ONLY possible with GREAT FAITH and this faith is only possible with GREAT GRACE… And so, I progressed to the wave. A little wave and a giggle as I passed by on the track.
And I am not yet done. I am not doing enough yet. I do not spend enough time with my Beloved and I do not know Him well enough. Pope Saint Gregory the Great said, “What is Scripture, if not the words of Almighty God? The Lord of men, and of angels, has sent you His letters for your life’s advantage – and yet you neglect to read them eagerly! Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God.”
For my greatest desire is to know the Holy Heart of my Beloved, and to satisfy that Heart. It is truly my greatest wish…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.