I’ve taken the title of this blogpost from a book by the same name written by Thomas H. Green. It is well worth the read.
On this theme, Laura Swan describes an experience that many of us who have been Christians very long can recognize:
“Often the early years of our spiritual journey are filled with wonderful experiences of God. Great strides are made in prayer and personal transformation, the very near presence of God seems to be with us daily, and the miraculous is seen. Then the journey seems to get harder. Growth and transformation come to frustrating dead ends; prayer seems dry and pointless. Friends, at best, fail to understand us and too often abandon us—family can too. Sometimes it seems that God has abandoned us.” (Laura Swan. The Forgotten Desert Mothers. New York: Paulist Press, 2001, p. 50.)
God blessed my earliest years of Christian life with an emotionally rich, encouraging, affirming sense of His presence. I remember wondering why every Christian didn’t feel God’s presence like I did. I was tempted to compare myself with them and find myself a few notches up the spirituality ladder. It was typical spiritual immaturity.
With this in mind, why in the world would we take new Christians with some special gift or experience of God and move them so quickly into positions of influence? We assume that dramatic experiences with God are marks of maturity. Might they actually be marks of spiritual youth? Are we trying to vicariously extend our own dramatic experience of God? Why not, instead, focus our attention on God Himself, felt or unfelt, and celebrate the gifts of young faith without envying or coveting?
What Swan is saying here may speak to the very place you find yourself in this season. Do you miss emotionally charged experiences of God? Do you miss the ease of prayer when God’s presence feels very near every day? Do you miss witnessing the obviously miraculous acts of God? Maybe your journey has become harder. Maybe you often feel at dead ends…or at least dry ones. You don’t “get as much” out of praying as you once did.
Perhaps you have been trying to pray as you can’t anymore. Perhaps you are using methods that aren’t as fitting as they were in earlier places of your journey. Maybe you tend to remain stuck in old methods for fear of the unknown of a more receptive approach to prayer.
But it is the contemplative that may be the most fitting for you now. Be careful that you don’t find yourself seeking a new place of felt presence by changing your methods. Contemplative prayer tends to be very simple and not very dramatic. Sitting in silence is mostly trying to be present and still before God in the midst of the onslaught of distracting thoughts, emotions and even physical sensations. This may be what you need.
Do you sense this invitation?