I press down on the metal bar and push the door in. Stepping out of the afternoon sunlight into the darkened interior of the church, I dip my fingers into the holy water font, bless myself, then slowly make my way down the center aisle of the church. Pausing to bow before the altar, I turn and approach the tabernacle, which is prominently placed to the right of the altar. Grabbing onto the back of the pew that sits in front of the tabernacle, I genuflect, then slide into the seat, pull the kneeler down and kneel. Blessing myself again, I look up at the tabernacle in front of me and study it for a few minutes.
I believe it is made of polished brass, and it has raised designs of some vaguely religious symbols on the doors.
“I’m here, Lord,” I say in my heart. “I’m ready to listen. What do you want to speak to me?”
The silence is palpable, yet filled with peace. Here is a real sanctuary for the heart and the soul. If only I could make it a sanctuary for the mind as well!
I feel His loving presence in the silence, but I do not sense Him speaking. This is not going to be easy.
And it never is. God is not at our beck and call, just waiting to tell us what we want to hear as soon as we ask. No, He waits in the silence for us to enter into that silence with Him. To quiet all the voices in our heads that tend to drown Him out during the day.
I begin a Divine Mercy chaplet, hoping to focus myself a little more clearly and maybe just touch that silence where He waits.
My mind wanders as the prayer continues, and before I know it, I am finishing the prayer. I still feel very distracted, but I allow myself to sit in silence for a few moments, just looking at the tabernacle.
“Lord, You’ve spoken to me before, sometimes when I’ve least expected it,” I say. I remember the time I was driving down the road, just praising God for all the green lights I was getting, and I heard as plain as day inside my head, “I can bless you much more.”
Or when I was watching that video about Mother Teresa ministering to lepers and You spoke to me hours later as I was complaining about my situation. We actually had a bit of a conversation then, I recall. You said, “Do you remember those lepers in the video?” I said that I did. Then You said, “I love you as much as I love them.”
Finally, I remember that day I was sitting at Mass and they were playing the song “Here I Am, Lord” and You spoke only a few words to me: “Deeper service.” I was so surprised at You speaking to me that I think I lost the moment and did not press You to understand what You meant.
But You seem to operate from that principle in my life. It’s rare that I understand exactly what You mean when You speak it. Is it that my understanding should grow over time and the word will be revealed to me like peeling back layers of an onion? Or am I just so obtuse and fearful that I don’t allow You to speak any more clearly to me? I figure since You’re bigger than me and You have the ability to interrupt my thoughts and speak directly to me, that if You really want to get through, You will make a way.
So I wait. I try to be as open as I’m capable of being at the time. But I hear nothing. I have a sense of Your Spirit working in certain instances when my heart is overwhelmed and the tears begin to flow, usually at Mass during a certain song or prayer or scripture reading. But still the understanding does not come. I wait and wait and You do not speak. Shall I die of old age before I hear Your call? Will I ever learn my purpose in this life? Or will I have lived my life as best I see fit and when I die, You will show me all the missed opportunities and how I could have really been happy?
I don’t want that. I want to be happy now. I want to enjoy my life, not always be looking around to see what it is that I should be doing. Or to start something that I think is the right thing to do only to be shot down because it wasn’t Your plan. Or at least there were roadblocks in the way and I gave up, thinking it couldn’t be Your plan or the door would be open.
Is that what I really want? Just to be happy and at peace? I think so. And for now, that’s as far as I can get.
In the Gospel reading, Your first words to the men who would become your disciples were, “What are you looking for?” Not “who,” but “what.” I am looking for a “what” myself. Am I missing the “Who” because I am impatient for the “what?” Should I also desire to “come and stay” with You today, that I might sit at Your feet and learn “the better part,” as Jesus described it to Martha?
I don’t believe You get bogged down in the little details of our lives. You see the bigger picture, and Your desire is for me to learn to love You with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. And so You orchestrate the circumstances of my life to bring me to that conclusion, and that is how you use them, both good and bad. Help me, Lord, to love You and to give myself wholly to You in all my circumstances.
Perhaps I know the answer of what You desire to speak to me. Perhaps it’s not some great thing that I must do. Perhaps it is just to know You and to love You, no matter what circumstance I find myself in. The meaning and purpose of life: to know God, to love God, and to serve Him in this life so as to be happy with Him in the next.
It’s so simple. Yet it’s not. We spend a lifetime trying to learn how to let go of ourselves and cling only to God. It’s not in our fallen human nature to want to do that. We desperately cling to our own ego, fearful of losing our very selves if we let go to God. And yet, there is no other way.
I must decrease that He would increase. That was not only true for John the Baptist, but it is true for all of us. As the life of God grows within us, we must put aside our very selves—all our hopes and dreams and aspirations—and let God build us into the person He wants us to be. We won’t find that on our own, even if we were to hear God’s voice tell us. It happens in the relationship, over time, as anyone who has ever fallen in love can tell you.
So, my purpose is not to sit here and ask God for answers. My purpose is to get to know Him who is The Answer, and learn to “abide” in Him at all times.
I bless myself and get up from the pew, genuflect, and leave the church, now more at peace. I have no answers to my questions, but I have The Answer to my heart’s desire.