In Psalm 46:10 the Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.” In the early days of the church, men and women moved out to the desert to live in this stillness. And later in church history this led to the development of monasteries and convents for those called to live in the quiet, for the Desert Fathers and Mothers truly experienced the presence of God in their lives. They learned how to be present to each person and to themselves. They supported each other, they answered the questions of the people who sought them out, they lived in the presence of God.
We, too, can also come to live in the presence of God if we are willing to devote time to be quiet, to be devoted, to serve God in all that we do. Centering Prayer is one form of meditation which helps us adapt to the stillness and the presence of God by giving up in prayer all that comes to us in our minds which distract us from our practice of His presence. If we can step back from all that our mind interrupts us with in a meditation, we can just become an observer of our thoughts, but not engaged in them. Many of them have been with us for years since our childhood reminding the meditator of all the “shoulds” and “ought-tos” that we were taught. We can sometimes name the source of our thoughts, like all the pressure I feel today to be on time even when I will arrive early! My parents are the source of my be-on-time-pressure. Now I just smile when these voices come up, say my “oh, Lord” prompt and sit back into the meditation.
If we spend enough time in meditation to live in the stillness of God, then we can begin to hear God’s “still small voice” speak to us in our minds. Another practice which really helps us be tuned into the Lord is keeping a gratitude journal daily. I quickly realized when I started mine that I was going to have to pay attention to what God was doing in my life during my days so that I could write something down each night, because I had no sense of God’s presence in my life. Immediately, I was able to see at least some of that He was doing, blessings, gifts, and how present He was to me, if only I would notice!
“Be still and know that I am God.” That stillness within us is how we hear the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God. It is, of course, the quiet voice in our minds, usually drowned out by the old, loud voices within us. That’s why it takes practice and quiet to hear God’s voice, to recognize its source. Then we have to do what He says. Often, we might hear His voice and not recognize it as His, especially when He is asking us to do something that we’ve never considered for ourselves. God does not think like we do. He does not see the limitations in us that we see. For He knows us so much better than we know ourselves, in deeper and truer ways. He is not bound by our family’s teachings or our culture like we are. He does not look through the lens of our poor self-images, formed through our early guilt and shame at not being able to follow our parents’ rules at the ages of, say, three to five.
God sees us through the eyes of the Creator of the world and of each person, because all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That image of God is planted in us at our conception; it rests in us, remaining hidden to us, until we hear the voice of God and respond positively to it. When we say, “Yes!” to God, that awakens the Indwelling Spirit of God within us. Then each step we take towards loving God, each issue we lay on His altar for His healing, brings us closer and closer to God. As we are being healed and transformed into the people He created us to be, as He carries more and more of our burdens, as the fruit of the Spirit arises in us, as we start to take in His love for ourselves, then, we are truly being to live as the people we really are.
The net result of all this change within us is that we are no longer defensive or self-protective, we no longer project our pain and sin onto others, we are learning how to be present in everything that we do. We can bring our hearts, souls, bodies and minds to everything that we do. We can experience what is really happening before us. We can hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. We can now pick up all the vibes and assumptions and fear that is in the people with us. Since we are being healed, we are now truly able to be present to the one(s) we are with, able to love them in spite of what we in the past might have judged or condemned.
So that is the net result of all the healing that God does in us: we know the presence of God now and we can truly love all the people we meet, because we are all made in the image of God. So there is no judgment, only love, there is no prejudice, only compassion, there is no fear, only presence, the whole of who we are in all that we do. It takes quite a while to get there, but it is well worth the journey to be a member of the kingdom of God where love and community are the watch words in which we live. And any time that we retreat back into our old habits, we can undo that again, just by lifting up our divergence from the love of God, and soon we are again living in peace and love and joy and the presence of God. What a gift that is!