Reflections to start the week
Monday, June 2, 2014
Let me try out this image of the spiritual life, courtesy of Desmond Tutu, who seems to know a lot about the spiritual life:
“One image that I have of the spiritual life is of sitting in front of a fire on a cold day. We don’t have to do anything. We just have to sit in front of the fire and then gradually the qualities of the fire are transferred to us. We begin to feel the warmth. We become the attributes of the fire. It’s like that with us and God. As we take time to be still and to be in God’s presence, the qualities of God are transferred to us.”
I can imagine you joining me in saying: I’m too busy for sitting by the fire. And by the way, it’s almost summer. Note that this comment comes from one of the world’s most energetic activists, who out of love of God tirelessly seeks to address injustice wherever he sees it. Lord knows, there’s plenty to address.
So it’s somewhat paradoxical that he wrote a piece called Reflections on Stillness in which he said that we are all meant to be contemplatives. He talks about the practices he has developed in his own life to foster that dynamic, letting God be God in and through us. For him, spiritual practice includes a “reasonable amount of time” in meditation early in the morning. It includes prayer out loud or to himself before every meeting, before every drive in the car. It means a monthly retreat at a local convent, one day every thirty days to pause. It means an annual retreat, three days of silence. I’m struck that this busy man, who answers the call to address the world’s deep hungers, with limited amount of time and energy to do so, feels that quiet time is so important.
Right now in the church calendar, we find ourselves in the days between Ascension Day and the Feast of Pentecost. Ascension Day, that mysterious feast when Jesus, defying gravity, leaves his disciples. Those disciples are called to wait for what God will do, wait for what will happen at Pentecost. That is a word to each one of us as disciples right now: We are called to wait, to be still, to listen, to be silent, to expect. In so doing, there is the possibility that we might grow to be more like God, as audacious as that seems.
One more thought from Desmond Tutu, as he spoke about the journey of growing in our God-awareness, demonstrated by our God-likeness, as we increasingly becoming what we love. He said: “People tend to look like the things they love which is why many people end up looking like their dogs. But we can also begin to look like God if we love God and strive to be like God.”
Today, find the time to be still in God’s presence. In that quiet time, consider what it might mean to love God more deeply, maybe even to become more godly. Imagine the ways you might be changed by that expression of affection.
- Jay Sidebotham
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
-I John 4:7
O God, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I want to want to love you.
-St. Teresa of Avila
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.