Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed on the rock. -Jesus
As the story goes, there were two houses, one built on sand and the other built on rock. A horrific storm blew up and slammed the houses with hurricane force winds, torrential rains and hail. The house built on sand lasted only a short time against the power of the great storm before it began to fall apart and eventually slid into the abyss. The house built on rock withstood the howling winds and pounding rain. It was battered and lost some shingles and window panes; but, when the storm ended and the sun shone, it was still standing.[i]
Throughout our lives we experience many storms. Some of them are nothing to really fear, small disturbances that cause a bit of inconvenience as we wait for them to blow themselves out. Others give us more pause, they stop us in our tracks, make us pull over because we are blinded by the wind and rain. We seek shelter; and, afterwards, go out to inspect for any damage, pick up limbs blown out of trees and put lawn furniture aright. Then there are the tornadic storms that make us run for our lives. We know we are in danger. We hunker down in our basement or safe place and listen, praying not to hear, the sound of the freight train that will descend and take away all that we love and have worked so hard to gain. If we survive, we go out and stand in awe-full wonder at the power that just passed over.
You know the storms you have experienced or witnessed: the stress of everyday life that builds until something gives, a car that doesn’t start one morning and requires expensive and unexpected repairs, a friend who disappoints, a child who pushes against the rules of the family over and over again, a parent’s illness, your illness, the loss of a job, bankruptcy and foreclosure, spousal betrayal, the death of a loved one.
These are some the personal storms we might face. As I write this reflection, we are also experiencing a national storm that threatens our stability and unity as a nation. Families, friendships and communities are being torn apart. We are hurt, fearful and angry. We no longer talk with one another to understand each other, but scream and howl, blaming and ridiculing. I recently heard a political commentator pronounce that, “…the country is unraveling.”
What is a follower of Jesus to do during a storm?
Whether the storm we face is personal or communal, only a passing disturbance or life-threatening, we must stay connected and rooted. Do not bury your head in the sand (remember what happened to the first house). Do what you need to do to stay fixed onto the Foundation on which you have built your life.
Contemplative spiritual practices can be the anchor that keeps our lives firmly fixed into the Rock. Such practices as meditation, Centering Prayer, journaling, keeping Sabbath, observing periods of silence, Lectio Divina, walking a labyrinth, spiritual direction, chanting, living contemplatively, Eucharistic Adoration, praying the Rosary and, of course, liturgy can open our hearts, minds and lives to God.
These practices have come down to us, through the centuries, from Jesus and such notable Church figures as the Desert Fathers and Mothers, St. Benedict, Brother Guigo II, Meister Echkart, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Brother Lawrence, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and many others.
First a disclaimer about spiritual practices: there is nothing magical or instantaneous about them. There are no magical formulas that will immediately change your life. There are no secrets here that will empower you to persuade others to your point of view, to prove you are right. There are no enchanted words that will whisk you off to some eternal bliss. These are practices that need to be, well, practiced.
What happens is that over time these spiritual practices, and our desire to be united with the Ground of our being, will change us. We will see ourselves and others in ways we never have before. We will hear with the ears of our hearts and minds. We will discern that life is full of paradox and dichotomy and not be disturbed by this awareness. We will experience the transformation of being loved and accepted just as we are for no other reason than that we exist. We will find ourselves offering love and acceptance to people and in situations we that we never dreamt possible before. We will accept that God’s reality is different than that of our culture and society and strive to do what we can to bring it to fruition. We will experience a peace that surpasses understanding even when life is painful, dark and hard. The storms that would destroy us will no longer have that power. We will be able to sing with Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”
Therefore, if you meditate, meditate. If you journal, journal. If you practice Lectio Divina, practice Lectio. If you chant, attend daily liturgy, pray the rosary, sit in Eucharistic adoration continue to do these things. If you have a contemplative practice of any sort, do not abandon it.
Those around you may be baffled by your behavior and accuse you of, indeed, burying your head in the sand. Nothing could be further from the truth. Staying grounded and rooted will keep you from being blown around like a scrap of paper. Staying tuned into God’s frequency will lead you on the path of compassion, justice and peace. Then, when it is time for you to act, and that time will come, being in the flow of Spirit will indeed empower you to act rather than react.
[i] Matthew 7: 24-27