Go into the Desert
Now I am under no delusions that the above is incredibly difficult to realize. For instance, a week after I had these revelations I, along with my wife, was babysitting my best friend's children (2 boys – ages 3 and 9 months). We were having a grand time. I was throwing the older boy around on their couches and he was laughing wildly. His younger brother was hyperventilating with happiness too seeing his brother being flung about. Then I spun him around several more times followed by several more tosses! “Again! Again!” He cried. Eventually my arms got tired, but boy did his smile not get tired. It was glued on his face the entire time. When I saw that smile, all I could think of was “Man I wish I could make my own son smile and have joy like this.” It sunk me. Needless to say, amongst all that happiness, I was being dragged into all of these negative thoughts like “God just doesn't want me to be a father. I'd probably wouldn't be good anyway. I don't even have a job yet to support him. Man, I'm a loser.” Luckily, by grace, I am a sanguine by nature so I didn't dwell too long in the moment and moved my thoughts pretty quickly back to that beautiful child at hand and we read many books about dinosaurs. But later when I got home, I just wept internally to God in my prayer. “Oh God, you are so not my treasure right now. I just want to have a child. So please please make me know how beloved I am.” It is at this point that the second step comes in.
If we are going to realize that the core of our dignity and happiness is God alone, then we need to spend abundant time with Him. There is no way around it. If you want to be unhappy, then keep avoiding spending time with God. If we want that joy and love we are seeking, then we have to spend time with our beloved. Period. This is hard for me though as a social sanguine who gets himself into trouble by taking on too many activities. Also, I frequently don't feel like “I get anything out of it”. So I have begun to think of prayer as a desert, as it is often portrayed in the scriptures. After all, Jesus frequently went into the desert to pray. Why the desert? Why not go to the synagogue? Perhaps a comfy room in his house? Perhaps by a beautiful scene of nature? Why the heck a desert? Primarily because it is the perfect analogy and place for prayer. Follow me here for a moment.
|How I feel on some days|
Our prayer life has to be simple like the dirt of the desert. In the desert, things are simple. There is a cactus here and there as a reminder to seek God's live giving water, a snake once in awhile to keep us fearful of evil, some tumbleweed balls to distract us, but for the most part it is just sand or cracked ground, miles and miles of nothing. So we need to keep prayer simple like the desert is simple. We too often make it complicated, get disappointed, and move on to something else as quick as we can. We need to have simple prayer times, which means this: simply spending fifteen minutes a day giving to God our concerns in quiet conversation and then just being loved by God in quiet mental conversation. Don't bring spiritual reading to these fifteen minutes. That can be done at another time or if you have longer time to give to God. The only book you should bring to this desert prayer time is the Bible and read passages from it slowly as God always speaks slowly to us or if you really prefer choose a few lines ahead of time from a spiritual book to contemplate.
The joy of prayer is like finding a gushing river of water in a desert. Consolations and desolations come and go in prayer. We shouldn't expect always to have great feelings or great insights. Nonetheless, there are innumerable graces I have felt in my life after trying to have a more consistent prayer life. Through much groping in the desert you will find a rushing river of water. You won't find water the easy way. You will get drops here and there; sometimes finding a nice cactus. But eventually the water will start to build. You will start to see more and more water under different rocks and then bam the river is in front of you. This river is a peace; a peace of heart that God wants you to have and to give to the world. Speaking from personal experience, there is a peace that reigns in my heart from knowing simply and radically that I am beloved by God on some days that you couldn't get me to trade for millions upon millions of dollars and yes even dare I say all the children in the world. But this peace and knowledge of knowing I am beloved doesn't come overnight. It takes a lot of time spent with the beloved. I am still very much learning this simple reality of being a beloved son or daughter of God, which brings me to my next point, to be continued.