In your relationships, have you ever been in attendance, but not really present; or have you ever wondered why a close friend suddenly becomes distant and out of reach? Have you ever been frustrated by the thought -hey, I’m doing all the heavy lifting here…how about some help?
I am reminded by my friendships that it takes two full participants to make a true relationship. It’s the same with my relationship with God. I need to remember that God is always knocking at my door. To be in proper relationship with him, I need to be present, not just in attendance, at the door; and I need to be watching with the eyes of faith. I need to be prepared to answer at whatever door or form he reveals himself to me.
Some years ago I recall I was regularly in attendance but not present with God. I remember over twenty years ago, our first Sunday at our new church; I quietly surveyed the large congregation, and I zeroed in on our “new” pew. I led the family to the vacant 3rd pew from the back of the church. I did this quickly to head off my wife’s preference for sitting at or near the front of the church. At this point of my spiritual life, I was an attend-at-the-back-of-the-church, preferably under-an-hour-Mass, kind of guy.
I wanted to worship at the altar of parish anonymity. From our new pew, staring at the backs of the heads of nearly 700 total strangers this fit the bill perfectly. Sitting up front, someone might notice us, and invite us for coffee and donuts, or ask us to join some committee or club. No sir, not me. I’m just here for my Sunday hour obligation. It’s funny how God can have other ideas.
We settled into our new pew, about a mile and a half from the altar. My wife started to cool down from my insistence we sit so far away. I heard the choir start to tune up, the candles were lit, and I sat back for a nice hour (with luck…) of random thoughts about the upcoming week’s activities, a game on TV later on that day, where we’d eat lunch, etc. As I drifted off into my pre-Mass thoughts, I felt a firm tap on my shoulder.
“Would you and your family like to bring up the gifts today,” a friendly older usher asked? His kindly face smiled. However, his big farmer-sized hand remained solidly on my shoulder waiting on an answer.
I am hard headed. I admit that. And in that hard-headedness, I refused to respond to God’s call that Sunday morning. Oh, we did take up the gifts, I didn’t want to mess with that usher, but right after the recessional hymn I hurried our family out of the church; and then I barely did more than fulfill my minimum religious obligations …for the next six years!
In the Gospel Jesus tells me: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
So how does this work? It’s mysterious and all that, but on the one hand, I’m surfing along the outer margins of any kind of spiritual life, and God -through that usher, taps me on the shoulder, knocks on my door. But I don’t answer; I’m spiritually AWOL. And then there are times, when I’m knocking, knocking, knocking on God’s door, but no one seems to be at home? It can be very frustrating. God must have the same thought over the years about me.
This reminds me of an essential piece of good relationships: patience. God called me. I wasn’t ready and so he waited. He quietly, but persistently hung around, just like a good friend would do. And then, I need to be patient too. When I can’t find God in my life, maybe I should take a break from knocking down doors where I think he is, and just sit in his quiet for a while, and listen. Maybe then I can hear his tap at a door I wasn’t even watching before.
As you search for God, keep in mind, he is always reaching out to you too. But if your search is isn’t producing fruit, ask yourself: do I have my eyes focused on something else, or on one particular door -the one door I’ve chosen; am I being patient enough to allow God to speak to me?
Good friends always know how to find each other. With God, sometimes that means being present at all the doors of your spiritual home, fully present, with patience.