The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville
January 30, 2014
There is a tendency in the spiritual life to assume that knowing God better is primarily up to us. We think we are the initiators of the relationship requiring us to make good things happen. This effort keeps us busy with multiple prayers, Bible reading, worship, and may even push us into frantic moments as if tugging on Jesus’ garment begging him to satisfy our desires. This frenetic push can have side affects including fear of making the littlest mistake. In the extreme we become neurotic and completely self-absorbed in our efforts to be perfect.
Many of the saints suffered from this well intended but misguided religious fervor. Often forgotten is the understanding that it is God you seeks us first, who lures us with love into a relationship, and who accepts us unconditionally whether we are perfect or not. As written in the first letter of John, “We love because he first loved us.” (19) The initiation of our relationship with God comes from God and is often delivered through the love we have for one another. The nature of this love is not to make us anxious for fear that we haven’t loved enough. The goal is not to earn a merit badge in heaven for being better than others. Rather, we are asked to have the humility to rest in God, to allow God to speak to our hearts and to guide our activities. This requires trust that God can work and speak if we simply back off. As Dag Hammarskjod, the Swedish economist and diplomat who became Secretary-General of the United Nations in the late 1950’s wrote, “The best and most wonderful thing that can happen to you in this life is that you should be silent and let God work and speak.”
That has been my experience. God’s first language is silence, a language people of any culture can understand. It provides the setting for peace and joy rather than fear and anxiety. It is God’s gift to us. God first loved us and often expresses that love when we take time to sit back, to rest our weary minds, and to let God speak in the depths of our souls in the silence.
Our response to God’s love is not to attach ourselves to belief systems as if obedience to laws or doctrines would force God’s love. We are already loved and God moves us beyond doctrines and disciplines to an actual inner experience of love leading to union with the Divine Lover. It’s primarily a matter of letting God work and speak.