Before I got sober at the age of 55, I was trapped by an ice storm at an abbey near Dubuque, in NE Iowa. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. There are no coincidences. I’m beginning to see that in my life, anyway, there are only events that cause me to choose. I can choose to take the climbing path towards Him or I can choose my own descending path… It’s what I believe. My choice.
According to my journal, that stormy week I spent time in the wisdom of Murray, Merton and Manning. A continuous thread throughout the readings was the topic of prayer.
While at the Abbey, I joined the services every few hours, sometimes even getting up well before dawn. I am not Catholic, so I was frequently lost while trying to follow the liturgy during the many times of communal prayer. After blurting out when it was not my turn to be responsive, I learned to just follow silently—not an easy thing for a public speaker, once English teacher.
This was the perfect metaphor for how lost I was in prayer, period. I was well acquainted with conversational prayer and comfortable praying aloud, in groups or even leading prayer in front of large gatherings. What I wasn’t comfortable with was…silence.
It was this week that I first started to practice silence in my personal prayer. It seemed like an oxymoron. Wasn’t I supposed to be talking, here? No. In my readings, I kept bumping up against the idea of being silent before God. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I already believed that God wanted to love me, to comfort me, to guide me, but I was not able to experience it. I couldn’t feel it! It wasn’t for lack of trying. I tried. I did. It wasn’t working. It was like my God was silent. Why did I feel that way?
It seemed that I was already isolated from God, so with the three authors recommending that I try silence, what did I have to risk? He wasn’t talking, why should I?
I tried coming into the presence of my God with silence–not with my words; with my heart–not my head. I tried doing something that I now call practicing the presence of God. Me, just being still, being aware of His love. I was seeking His love and His will. I wanted Him in my life. For the first time, I really did. I was getting desperate. I was becoming tired of living my life according to me. I didn’t know it, but I was being led to a new path… one that would call for the sacrifice of old ways and a program of new ones.
This willingness to be silent was a new willingness to be dependent. After a few weeks, this confidence of God within fueled my outward dependence on Him. I think it’s actually the principle behind Step 2, don’t you? I was finding a right relationship with God. I was tiring of the intellectualizing faith that had given me information without relationship. God was in my head, but not my heart. I had God, but He didn’t have me. Not yet.
The God of intellect displaced the God of our Fathers. ~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 2012, p 29 Step 2
I gave up drinking less than a month later. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
PS: It wasn’t until I pulled this journal from the shelf that I discovered when I started to practice the presence of God. Have you tried it?