A person is walking along the street and a thought comes to her: “I ought to phone my Auntie Julie. I know it is boring, and I never know what to say, but she must be lonely stuck in her flat with no visitors.”
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard; Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world; And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.
I wrote a short piece for the London Centre for Spiritual Direction‘s May newsletter. Then a few days later I was invited to give a reflection at a Holy Communion Service on Zoom. I used the original piece as a springboard to engage with the scripture. Here is the delivered product.
This time of plague is a desolation for many: loss of work, loss of income, loss of health, loss of life; traumatic, dangerous front-line work; and decimated support services. Those of us not so endangered still suffer desolation. There is overwhelming uncertainty: where will we be next year, or next week!? How are we to live now? What is God’s call now?
A few years ago I was at a day conference with Silence in the City. It was a hot summer’s day. I was due to meet up with a couple of people later. Towards the end of the talk, both people sent texts begging off because of the heat. I was irritated. I do not understand being unable to cope with the heat. Just deal with it!
I had a discomfiting revelation the next day. I was at a meeting in a church in the City. There was so much noise: the interminable roar of traffic and the beeping of reversing trucks; the wearing whir of air-conditioning; the repetitious patronising announcements on public transport. I struggle with noise. I get steamed up. I just want some silence!
When I ask people what they say to God, they often tell me they ask God to change their, or other people’s, attitudes, behaviours, and situations.
A manager asks God for more patience (with her difficult colleagues).A mother worries about her adult children’s standing with God and prays God will make them come back to church (which bores them stupid). A man feels guilty that he feels angry towards his husband (who never helps out at home) and asks God to help him be kinder. A vicar (who is harried by a demanding congregation) asks God to help her enjoy visiting the sick. A city dweller (who is fed up with the frenetic lifestyle and noisy, dirty streets) asks God for help to find a place to live in Cornwall. I’m feeling a lot of fear at the moment (more on this another time). I want God to stop me being afraid.
This is the pre-emptive strike. I make my request before giving God an opportunity to comment: “I know what is wrong. Please sort it out.” Not that I think I know what I need better than God does; rather, I fend off being vulnerable with God.
This year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?” It is clear that this is what Jesus was doing all day every day. But it is not what his followers have been doing in very large numbers.
Our human identity therefore becomes one in which we both acknowledge in prayer this dependence [upon God] and respond to the gift that sets up not only our being but our renewed being in Christ; and in acknowledging that dependence we are empowered to ‘do the work of God’.
“I want to know what God wants me to do with my life.”
People often seek spiritual direction with this question uppermost in their minds. Spiritual direction is the right place to ask this question. Spiritual directors have training in discernment, and it is a question we ask ourselves frequently. My contention is that this is not the right place to start.
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