How do I know what God is saying? My boy, almost to the point of tears, comes to me with my barely poured mug of coffee and blurry eyes. I've been encouraging him to read the Bible on his own, and in the grey of this June morning he is feeling unsure of himself and the Mysteries of God. I am still fuzzy from the early hour and the barely begun summer break, now equally unsure of myself and what measure or breadth of response this emotional plea warrants.
We have been-- until now-- easing our way into these slow summer days. We wake up as the light warms the room, laze about the house with coffee and books, each assembling breakfast at his or her own pace. I've set a few small parameters, by no means an enthusiastic schedule like summers past, but there are small tasks to be done: a pile of books for each to read, a goal of some kind like a math class or a basketball regimen to work through. Learning to know what God is saying is not on this list, and seems a little beyond the scope of what one summer could cover.
But, my sweet boy is not concerned with my blurred eyesight or summer goals when he comes to me with his question. He is just there with me, with any or all of us who are on this pilgrimage to understand ourselves under and against and before the Creator who makes himself strangely, simply, mysteriously known. Even perhaps, in June.
I read an article this week, exploring a memoir about Oswald Chambers where it stated that he once wrote, Catholics often make an idol of their church, Protestants of Scripture. Thinking of how most of my community and background falls somewhere within the Protestant tradition-- I can take that censure to heart and with a bit of salt. It's true, even as I think on how I show my young son the practices I pursue and engage in, in order to lay myself open to the very answer to the question he seeks-- how do I hear the voice of God? I spend a lot of time in the Scriptures. At least, I daily immerse myself in them. I ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes, to show me truth about myself, others, the world, God himself. It's the most basic and for me, trusted way to hear God speak. But perhaps it's a little lonely.
I have friends who speak more in terms of hearing a word of knowledge or receiving visions-- and though I marvel at their stories and experiences, that way has always remained veiled for me. I guess it's just not in my spiritual or theological DNA.
Thankfully, it doesn't appear that God is stingy with his communication or his ways of working with people. And yet, I understand my boy's angst. There is no tried and true method. Teresa of Avila was as uncertain that others would inhabit her interior castles as St. Paul that those he prayed for to comprehend the height and depth of God's love for them would be able to do so. It is a pilgrimage after all; a Way, a path along a riverbed sometimes verdant with green pastures of clarity and sometimes diving deep into valleys of shadow and doubt. But it's a path we shouldn't walk alone.
The theme for this week in Ordinary Time is The Praying and Sharing Community. As beautiful as the scenes of Acts 2 are, reading through them and other passages about living closely with a worshiping community has been, truthfully, a bit of a bummer. Ironically, most of our community left this past week. Many just for the summer break until they return in August or September, but some for good-- moving back to home countries or on to new horizons and greener pastures. I sit on my porch and watch the neighbors across the way come out to mop their tiled porches and pick through their plants or hang clothes to dry, and I think, I might as well be praying and sharing with them. I know more about their habits and daily lives than most of my friends at church.
There are others whose habits I know, and one of them now reaches up for me to make room on my lap. Another, still waiting-- how do I hear the voice of God? how do I know what he is saying to me? I think, I do have a praying and sharing community, though sometimes it seems a little heavy on the sharing side.
-Here's my leftover piece of bread from breakfast (soggy, crumpled)
-Can I tell you why I like to look for bugs but not find them?
-Do you know if we'll go swimming today?
-Can I tell you my imagination for a treehouse?
These all along with the half-filled cup of coffee and blurry eyes and how do I hear the voice of God?
I don't subscribe to the stay-home-and-do-church-as-a-family method as a regular and healthy practice, but in many ways these feet and questions that gather around me are not less than my own little Acts 2 moment. I can too easily and too quickly downplay the vitality of the seven of us asking one another questions about how to know God, sitting under the Word as we come together in the evenings, sharing meals together, having everything in common.
I can wish or think that what we are when we come together ought to be more than what it is-- our praying is often weak and meager or tinged by annoyance with one another. Sometimes a child gets in trouble. Sometimes there is eye rolling. Thankfully, there is often plenty of laughter. Regardless, we try to come together-- a community of sinners past and present and future, being made new. I don't always feel it, but I know that God is there, among us, a very ordinary praying and sharing group of people, looking to hear His voice above the din of our own, maybe even in the ordinary month of June.