active life participation
It is an interesting time to be alive, is it not? I am sure every generation believes the technological advancements in their lifetimes are the most profound, but as a child of the 70’s and 80’s I can’t help but think this age we are living in is nothing short of revolutionary. Forgive me while I date myself a bit, but I come from a time where I waited for my turn to use the home phone and consulted the encyclopedia to get the most up-to-date information for school reports. I remember getting our family’s first microwave and having to get up to change to change the tv station (gasp)! Fast forward to cell phones and computers for every man woman and child as a necessity. Information is king and we can have it at lightning speed. We don’t really have to wait for much anymore - Amazon and Google take care of most needs for things and information these days. We can even multitask and get that overdue birthday gift ordered for Mom while we are on a zoom call for work.
I don’t mean to imply that we were more enlightened in these simpler times before all this pesky technology, I just wonder if it’s gotten harder (and dare I say counter-cultural) to fully engage with anything or anyone. How is this divided attention and instant gratification affecting our spirits? Most of don’t stop to ask until some part of our lives breaks down. When we suffer a loss, when we get a diagnosis, when our children or marriages are in some turmoil, then we start to look for answers or maybe just some relief. As a faith-based therapist, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “how?” How can I be more awake and intentional about the things and people that matter to me? How do I begin to truly show up more fully in all my relationships to myself, to the people that matter to me, and to God?
The answer is simple but may not always be easy. We don’t need to make a grand gesture or proclamation of faith to get God’s attention, we already have it. It comes down to practicing presence. Practicing presence means waking up from autopilot and engaging with God in a new way, allowing a space to be formed from which a new response can arise. But learning to be present to God, ourselves and others may feel incredibly foreign to us at first even though we are created for it. Presence is relational, not one sided- it requires our active participation, which involves our curiosity and our willingness to be shaped. It is not always about do-ing something but more about the quality of our be-ing that matters. Our active participation lies in the balance of doing and being and grows from our commitment to turn toward God, over and over again, in response to the move that God has already initiated toward us.
This is a lifelong journey that thankfully has been traveled by many wisdom teachers before us leaving a trail for us to follow about how to engage with classic practices of prayer, stillness, and hearing God through scripture. These ancient practices have been joined by modern helps like apps that remind us to be still and pray, meditate on scripture, virtual and in-person groups that invite us into community to reflect together and look for the movement of God in our lives. My personal journey has been deepened by engaging with these teachings and spiritual practices on my own and in small groups. I have curated some ways for you to get started here (link back to active participation) and would love to hear from you about what has been meaningful in your spiritual journey.
So what if we already attend church or Bible study, engage with spiritual practices and tools and we still don’t feel relational toward God? Sometimes we may be carrying old hurts and notions of God and ourselves that keep us from feeling safe. When we feel this way, it can be hard to be open and receptive to the movement of God in our lives, even when we want to. Are there barriers in your life to approaching relationship with God with genuine interest and curiosity? It may be helpful to work through these concerns in a safe place. It is through this sometimes-gradual process of turning toward God that we learn to trust and listen deeply to the Holy Spirit in us as we engage more fully with things like scripture, silence, prayer, journaling, nature, and music. Active participation means more than going through the motions, it means letting our hearts be touched, our minds be changed, and our bodies be moved. It is through this relationship with God that our lives have purpose and direction, and we can learn to be more fully alive and awake in all things.
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Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. -Attributed to Viktor E. Frankl