I really wanted to see a whale. How cool would that be?
As we cruised toward our next port, I rose early with high hopes to see something majestic. I sipped my coffee and looked out over the perfectly glassy ocean. It was quiet and calm. And then it happened! I saw it! Amazing!
Then, as if it knew I was watching, it jumped again! Beautiful! Amazing! Rising up out of the still, glassy water, in the calm of the morning, I saw something I'd never seen before. Something that was, before that moment, hidden within the vast depths of the ocean.
The depths of the ocean contain a beautiful, amazing, complex, and sometimes scary world.
It seems that our hearts hold equally beautiful and fear-provoking realities.
We Are Professionals at Avoiding the Depths of Our Hearts
We are brilliant at avoiding, numbing, distracting, masking, and doing every possible thing to not deal with what is in the depths of our hearts.
What if what I see in my heart is something so beautiful I can't handle it? What if that beautiful thing is then taken away from me? Better to not go there and not risk being heartbroken.
What if what arises from my heart is something painful? Better to not deal with it. If I hide it away, it will go away. Right?
Silence and Stillness Let the Important Things Come to the Surface
I realized, just this morning, how long it takes to truly let my heart calm down enough to see what's in there.
I probably waited at least a half hour, just staring at the glassy water outside of our cruise ship, before I saw what I was hoping for. This morning, during my quiet prayer time, it was about the same amount of time.
First ten minutes: Kneel. Try to praise God. Distracted thinking about my to-do list. Praise God again. Ask Him for some things.
Second ten minutes: Sit. Try to focus on my breathing and be attentive to what my mind is on. Ask God to speak and try to listen in the quiet. Still distracted by many things. Surface level. Consider that it might be nice to reflect on some wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in my Bible.
Third ten minutes: Read Chapter 25 of the book of Proverbs because it's the 25th day of the month. Ponder some of the wisdom and talk to God about it. Sit and silence and see if Jesus has anything else to say about it.
Then it happened, about thirty minutes into all of this. I started thinking about something that happened recently. I wasn't happy about a conversation I'd had with a family member. It didn't end well. I knew that it would take humility and vulnerability to reconcile the relationship. I didn't want to deal with it. During this moment, I even felt myself resisting this thought.
But I did think about it and pray about it. I didn't leave this prayer time feeling super confident in how I was going to approach the situation. It wasn't magically resolved. Still, I recognized the Holy Spirit moving me to deal with something important and giving me the prompting I needed to become a better me.
What would have happened if I just kept distracting myself from this reality in my heart? What if I left my prayer before the my intended amount of time was up (one hour)? How long would it have taken me to admit to myself that I need to resolve this?
Set an Amount of Time for Prayer and Don't Leave Early
If you are already on the Christian journey, you know that silence is essential to hearing the voice of God. On a human level, silence and stillness are essential if we are to recognize what is going on in the depths of our hearts. Often, these things are some of the most important things in life. The things that, when experienced, lead to happiness, belonging, freedom, and fullness of life. They are sometimes beautiful. They are sometimes scary. They are always worth the experience.
When we allow our hearts this time of stillness and silence, it's then that we can truly offer our whole hearts to God. Not just our thoughts or hasty and shallow words, but the depths of what is going on in our lives.
Let us commit to a certain amount of daily silent prayer and NOT LEAVE EARLY!
What if I'm distracted?
The Church recognizes distraction as a real difficulty to prayer:
"The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction... To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified" (CCC 2729, emphasis mine).
"All that is necessary" in prayer "is to turn back to our heart" and "offer him our heart to be purified."
So, let us turn back to our heart. Let us wait for that amazing or difficult thing to rise to the surface. Let us offer our heart to God and go out from prayer with Him to live full and meaningful lives.