Several Christian artists have written songs that refer to God’s “fingerprints” in our lives. We may have to look for them, but our lives are covered with signs of God’s love at work in us, although sometimes these signs are hidden. How can we grow in awareness of God’s presence and saving love in our life? Here are four simple ways to get started:
1. List your life—all the big events of your life. Can you see a pattern of how God has been present in your life? Later, you may wish to bring one of the events on your list to prayer.
2. Choose one of the events in your life that has influenced you and journal about it. (You can also bring it to prayer.)
3. If there’s a time in your life that you feel God wasn’t present, simply bring that hurt to God in prayer and ask him to reveal to you, at the best moment, how God was with you.
4. Make it a practice to bring your day or week to a prayerful review with the examen. (I’ll post more on how to do this later. If you want to get started right away, you can visit Father Michael Denk’s website and download his Examen App.)
Sometimes it is easier to enter into a new awareness by actively doing or creating something helps us to reflect with images, craftsmanship, or physical activity. Try one (or both) of the following:
- Make a timeline, patchwork, or scrapbook of your own life – which includes both the “outer” or visible significant events of your life, and the “inner” or invisible significant events.
- Draw your life as a pathway. Has it gone up a mountain, or through a dark forest? What signposts have shown you the way? Have you crossed beautiful meadows? Hit any roadblocks? What are the landmarks or milestones on your path? Where did your path begin, and where does it lead?
Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. (One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)
Just as it is important to “begin where you are,” it can also be helpful from time to time to look back over your life and pray with where you have come from. Even if you are just starting to seek a relationship with God, God has been with you up to this point, even though you may not have recognized his presence. To understand God’s invitations, it is helpful to understand how he has been at work in your life so far.
Every day promises a new revelation of God’s love, yet our God of surprises is also consistent in the ways he works with us. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and so he works with us and within us in the ways that help us to grow, to live in always greater love and greater freedom.
In the powerful film, Freedom Writers, a new teacher at a poor inner-city high school tries to create a learning environment for the students whose worlds have been constantly rocked with racial violence. To help the recalcitrant students recognize their common humanity, she creatively has them share their stories by playing a simple “line game:” If something she says is true about them, they step toward the line that runs down the center of the classroom. Gradually, she leads them from the ordinary (who likes a particular song) to the painful: How many have lost a loved one to gang violence. As the students start to share bits of their stories with their teacher and with each other—simply by stepping toward the line—everything begins to change. The classroom is transformed from a tense potential war zone into a place of community, sharing, learning, and friendships.
Imagine how powerful it would be for us to share our stories with God. The next few posts will encourage us to do just that.
A) What is one of your favorite stories from the Old Testament? Why is it a favorite?
B) Can you see a connection between your story and the Old Testament story that you chose? How do you identify with the people in the story? What touches you about the action of God in the story?
Jesus often told stories. Stories are how we make sense of the world, and they are also how God gives us a sense of his presence in the world.
There are many ways of listening to God. One of the most important is praying with the Scriptures. (Read this easy guide to begin praying with the Scriptures through Lectio Divina.) Yet many of the saints prayed with a text that was not a book—they prayed with the “book of their life”—all the circumstances that made up their lives. If God truly is everywhere, then wouldn’t he most especially be found in the lives of his beloved ones?
What is your story? How has God been at work in your life? In his book on discernment, Marko Ivan Rupnik says:
“Discernment is the art of the spiritual life in which I understand how God communicates himself to me, how God saves me—and this is the same thing—how God brings about redemption through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, and how the Holy Spirit communicates to me the salvation won for me by Jesus Christ. Discernment is an art, therefore, in which the realities in creation, the realities in the persons around me, the realities within me, and the realities in my personal history and history itself cease being mute in order to begin to communicate to me God’s love” (Discernment: Acquiring the Heart of God, p. 17).