Listening to God retreat
Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and
incline the ear of your heart.
Receive willingly and carry
out effectively your loving father's advice, that
by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you
had departed by the sloth of disobedience.(Rule of St. Benedict Prologue)
What do obedience and listening have in common?
“Personal Infallibility”, I believe is a great cause for many of the problems that we have in the world. It is understandable for young people to have difficulty in being obedient to those who actually may have something to teach. Often to their own loss. Being obedient is not the same thing as belonging to a cult where personal responsibility and inner growth are not encouraged. Obedience does not ask us to submerge our ego’s into some sort of collective.
It can be hard to understand that another way of doing things, or perhaps to learn to perceive differently through the wisdom of others when beginning one's spiritual seeking, journey, or faith path. It takes the ability to listen, to quiet the mind and to not be thinking of some sort of retort while the other is speaking. The mind has to be focused, open, and humble to be able to take in input that could lead to a deeper understanding of what our lives are about. Inner silence is needed for proper listening.
Before the ability to listen can be developed, there has to be an insight that there is a lot to learn. If that is lacking, then obedience is probably impossible, at least obedience that is freely given. To force someone to comply is not obedience. The use of force, which is sometimes necessary does little to lead anyone to deeper wisdom, or understanding about life. It does not lead to inner freedom from the tyranny of one’s own ideas and will.
God does speak to us in our everyday lives. It is true that humans, myself, of course, included, have a destructive-streak that is very wide, deep, and can be all-encompassing in one’s life. When we sin, we live out of that place where self-hatred is king. When looking around us, we see a great deal of good, beauty and love. We also see, which at times seems the greater part, cruelty, wars, abuse of all kinds, and cities that are not all that conducive to a life that is centered and peaceful.
I do believe that the Ten Commandments are a good way to live out one’s life. What if for six months, everyone in the United States, lived out the Ten Commandments? It would most likely transform our society…..but that will not happen of course.
However, many do learn from their lives, that something is amiss and seek out others to help them to untangle the knots created from bad choices, upbringing, and the numerous additions that can make life unlivable, and will often lead to death.
This search drives them inward, seeking a relationship with God. For many, it is the God of their understanding as offered by the 12 Step programs, which can be good. For part of the problem for many, what makes it hard for them to slow down and to listen, is what they have been taught about God. We often make God in our own image and likeness, which can be terrifying.
To pray, to listen, to speak the truth before God, and to allow God to inspire us is not always easy. We give our attention to the endless parade of thoughts that the brain manufactures for our entertainment, as well as for our inner torment. We have to at first deal with these thoughts in such a way that they will not become the pilot.
In seeking to listen to God, we soon learn, if we are patient, that we are not the tapes in our heads, nor the movies, nor the often painful emotional outburst that rise up seeking release. No, we are that which is able to watch and to let the cacophony to play itself out without inner dialogue with it. We learn not to believe everything we feel, think, or imagine because we have found that which is in us that ‘listens’.
To seek a deeper union with God leads to humidity, which is the ability to accept and embrace that which is within, in the presence of our loving Father.
Psalm 139 can teach us how to trust in God, and to pray without being afraid of what is in us. It is all seen, known anyway.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
God has no need to search our hearts, but we need to invite Him to do so, for it is needed in deepening our trust in the love of the Father for each of us. We need to remind ourselves that we are all wonderfully made. Hence the command to love ourselves, as well as others.
To listen to God entails a ‘death-to-self’ that leads to fuller life.—Br.MD