Q: I have one – desperate – question. In the current lockdown I am led to believe from the book 40 Days to a Closer Walk with God [by David Muyskens] that I can discover this God within me by reading and silence. I now have time to do this. … Do I need a spiritual director or will I be able to discover radical change in 40 days without one. I’ve done this before and I really need it to work this time.
Joy Andrews Hay: How wonderful that you are open to using this time to grow closer to God! It is true that in this time of sheltering-in-place, we have an opportunity to do this. Some of us will do it by caring for our families, and some by risking our lives to care for the public. Some of us are gifted with extra time for prayer. But whatever we are doing, whatever our circumstances, God walks with us through it, loving us deeply.
It sounds like you have a deep desire to grow in your relationship with God. That relationship goes two ways: your desire is already a sign of God’s love for you; God’s call to bring you closer. God is already with you on this journey and will always be with you. And as you practice Centering Prayer you consent over and over to the love God has for you.
As for really needing it to work this time, please pray for God to help you trust. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Trust in the slow work of God”. We can’t rush God, or give God an agenda. It is impossible to guess at the work God is doing in you, or how much time it may take. Learning to recognize God’s work in your life might surprise you — it may not be what you expect; and it might not feel like you would like it to feel. A deeper relationship with God doesn’t mean we suddenly feel more peaceful or calm; it means we invite God into whatever we are experiencing. We say yes to God’s presence and action with us in the middle of our lives, exactly as they are. And yes, that is transformative. We may be the last to notice its effects, but a trusted friend may notice different things in you — more kindness, patience, gentleness, for example. God’s work may not seem huge; it’s more likely to be subtle.
As for a spiritual director, the one true director for all of us is God, to whose love we consent in our prayer. Even so, it is helpful for us to have another person to share our thoughts with, to help us recognize the subtle surprises that God’s work can bring, and to see the good in us, to encourage us to be kind to ourselves on this journey. As you are taking up Centering Prayer it is also helpful to find someone else who has practiced it a while, to bounce things off of. You might find someone in one of the Centering Prayer groups (e.g. listed here on the Contemplative Outreach site or on these sites) — many groups are online these days as we are sheltered-in-place. If you know a person you can trust, ask if they can make regular time to talk with you. If you have access to a trained spiritual director (Spiritual Directors International has a “Seek and Find” guide that can help you find one, or ask a local religious institution for referrals) they too can help you learn to listen deeply for God’s presence, within you already. I pray that you find what you need, and that you offer kindness to yourself in this journey. God bless your 40 days, and much more. Thanks so much for writing.