game changer: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way (The Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Don't you just love "AHA" moments during prayer? I call them "game changers" because they tip your spiritual life on its head and shake loose all that isn't useful anymore in your walk with the Lord. As your spiritual life progresses certain prayer habits impede growth if we cling to them and we must be able to let them go and follow the Holy Spirit's lead instead. Usually these changes first come about during periods of illumination as God begins to direct the spiritual life of the individual to ever greater degrees. God gently tugs the reins of our lives out of our hands and takes them into His own and oh what a difference this makes in our lives! One of its most beneficial effects is a steady inner peace, along with a greater trust in Divine Providence.
Here are a few of the game changers that have had the greatest impact on my life up until this point:
- God's love is everything. And the key to the spiritual life is not spending your time frantically searching for this immense love that supports all life but in realizing that you are already in it. His love completely encompasses us and pervades our very existence. Our biggest struggle stems from a loss of awareness of this love. Sin darkens the understanding and we lose the sense of being in God's presence though we are as much in the Divine presence as we were previously - it is not really possible to hide from God since He is omnipresent. (Yes, that means we sin in His presence.) The love is steady and consistent on God's end - He loses no awareness of us, it is we who lose our awareness of Him. The soul is asleep and needs to be awakened. And many, many souls are asleep these days. Prayer helps wake us up to the knowledge of "God with us" again. Over time, prayer often becomes a "sinking into" or a "resting" in God's love as we once again experience His presence and realize that our words are getting in the way instead of helping. Some people think that God does not "speak" to them. I do not know whether to laugh or cry whenever I hear someone say this. The truth is...God never shuts up. It is we who close our ears, hearts, and minds. I am not joking...the Lord never shuts up. Often, it is simply that we are too distracted to hear Him. It's pretty hard to multi-task you know. We have gotten so good (or bad, rather) at juggling numerous tasks and "commitments" that we have forgotten the biggest commitment of all... putting God first. If we were to do this, all the other aspects of our lives would fall into place. And if we would learn to quiet down and pay attention we would all "hear" God. His ways of speaking are endless. God does not have to speak out loud in order to communicate with us, He has direct access to our souls and can impress his words right onto our hearts. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many of us have "spiritual" ADHD. Think about it. Our poor brains and our hearts are pulled in so many directions at once that we cannot possibly focus enough to pay attention to God. Plus we are hyperactive. If I were to give anyone a piece of advice on prayer it would be:
Remember to quiet yourself and listen. If you do this, God will do the rest.
- Love comes first. By this I mean that first we experience God's love and then that love bears fruit in our lives. If you attempt to live life by a performance-based measure instead of a love-based measure you'll always struggle spiritually. Love comes first and everything else flows from this foundation. I spent years thinking I had to earn God's love (this is one of the results of living in a performance-based society, sadly) only to find that I was living in this love the whole time. Another huge game changer. The world has it backwards in its extreme focus on productivity as king. The truth is that work matters because people matter and not the other way around. Knowing this simplifies life to a great degree because you begin to know what is worthy of your attention and what stems from greed and excess.
- Life or death...it's a win-win situation. When we are alive on earth we live in Christ's love, when we die we live in Christ's love. This one was a huge game changer for me because it took away a large portion of my fear of death. Death is a doorway between time and eternity. We leave time, we enter eternity...God's love encompasses both. I often think of this earth as a "womb" God's womb, where He is preparing his children for their REAL life...their life in eternity. Yet, we dash madly about, not understanding that we are completely encompassed in the love of God. We fight against suffering, our "birthing pains" here. Were we to embrace them with grace and courage we might be able to quiet down enough to see that death is simply a doorway and not to be feared. For those who have loved, and loved deeply, death is as easy as walking from one room to another. It's the ultimate act of abandonment to the Divine Will. We do no work at death...God does all the work at this time. Just as a baby is born with no help from himself, so it is with us at the time of death. We simply "let go" and release ourselves into the tender hands of our Father in heaven.
- It's okay to pour your heart out and lay it at Christ's feet. God knows everything that's in there anyway: the good, the bad AND the ugly. Nothing is hidden from Him so it makes no sense to hide what's in plain sight. This is very freeing once we move past the shame and sorrow of having sinned right in front of Him so often. It also helps us realize just how great a gift the Sacrament of Confession is.
One of the things that causes a number of people to hold God at arm's length is fear. For the most part, the four game changers I wrote about above strip away fear and allow us to embrace the Lord and his Will for our lives more fully.
All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
St. Julian of Norwich