I was reading this week in Fil Anderson’s “Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers” and he referenced Jesus regularly escaping to solitude and Paul’s time in Arabia as a sacred place where our heart is formed. He states that “it’s the place where I temper my devotion, make promises to God, and hear with my soul's ear the promises God makes to me. Arabia is where my deepest soul beliefs are forged and sustained. We need regular trips to Arabia.” I feel like I just had my own short time in Arabia and had a wonderful opportunity to experience God in silence during my trip to my first class.
The unique thing about the coursework I am pursuing is that it is in a hybrid setting. So, I am traveling back and forth each semester for intense work and then follow-up with regular assignments via the internet. I had the wonderful opportunity for this course to stay with the Sisters of The Precious Blood. The journey of traveling there alone and staying in a simple room with no distraction of television, internet or even a “to do list” was invigorating to me (and I do realize this sounds like torture to some of my friends and family (it used to to me as well). I will admit, my addiction to all things internet caused me to struggle briefly, but only briefly, as the rewards of quiet contemplation were well worth the little time spent in my simple room.
I have noticed upon my return home that my time of solitude away helped me process much more than I’ve been able to process since I’ve been home. The daily distractions of life often draw us away from God instead of to Him. My desire for ministry to God is to simply help people find ways to hear from God and find peace in their daily life. A trip to “Arabia” doesn’t have to take you to another land. You may find your “Arabia” in the backyard, a homeless shelter, a local convent or even in the simple silence of your own home. Try turning off the TV, computer, smart phone and just sit down and enjoy some time with your creator (the weather at my house is beautiful today). And, although we think that this slowing down may cause us to be delayed or unproductive (I fall prey to this too), when it is managed right, I’ve found I am much more productive for my family, my church and my community.
This draws me back to a practice that was introduced to me a few years ago at the beginning of my journey toward finding peace, Centering Prayer. It is a practice that in the beginning I was committed to regularly but then duties of life picked up again and unfortunately I let it fall by the wayside. I will be revisiting this practice in the coming weeks as I’m being drawn back to putting the disciplines to practice in my life (and it happens to be part of a class assignment too!). Maybe you could start small and give it just a few minutes of your day as well? As Thomas Keating reminds us in this video, just sit down, it doesn’t have to be perfect – God recognizes our effort and wants us to simply be in his presence.
Maybe you could take some time in “Arabia” today?
Whitney R. Simpson
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