The following is a transcript from a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 60: Everyday Mysticism
Hi friends. Today we’ll wrap up our short series on mysticism. If you’d like to take a listen to the earlier parts of this series, there’s episode 57: Into the Mystic, episode 58: Mystical Union, and last week we had episode 59: The Good Fruit of Encountering God. Today we’ll finish up with some practical ideas to help you to develop your own mystical lens for yourself. My prayer for you in all of this is that you will get to know God as Hagar did in the Book of Genesis, as “Lahai Roi”, or “The God who sees me.” Because, friends, once we really knowthat He does see, know, and love us, individually and completely, well, it really does change everything.
In order to develop our spiritual lens around a relationship with God who both sees and communicates with us, it might help us first to clarify our lens about ourselves. Now, that can be the work of a lifetime, believe me, I know. There is so much from our childhoods and our histories that creep into who we believe ourselves to be, but what if we started with one small shift: what if we thought about our life as a story? Well, to practice thinking of our lives as stories, first we will have to understand ourselves as the main character. This may be very easy for some of us and somewhat harder for those who have historically seen themselves in supporting roles for other people’s lives, and that’s probably a whole other episode, truthfully, friends, but it will also naturally lead us to the question of just who is writing our story, and why?
My take is that I am writing my story in cooperation with God who loves me. He has a plan for my life, many of them probably, and He is always walking both with me and a little ahead. And the people and circumstances around me influence that story, sure, but I am learning to view all of that as more the setting of my story rather than the writer of it. Ultimately, it’s my will and actions and decisions, both large and small, that will write the story of my life as I choose to hold the Hand of God and He walks with me through it. In this narrative, sometimes God will have some stuff to tell me and teach me to help me walk all of this out the best I can, and because He knows and loves me perfectly, He finds various ways to do that that make sense to me. Insights, clarity, and understanding may come to me through words in songs, metaphors in nature, symbols in books or art that come my way, the loving words of a dear one, therapy, yoga, my dog, Bailey, and so much more. The Creator of the Universe has quite a large palette with many colors at His disposal and He uses them all to talk to me, His dear daughter.
Over the years, I have learned to recognize His voice in the context of my unique life, and friend, you can too. Here are some practical ideas about how to tune your own mystical lens.
First, you can always ask God to help you. Pray each morning that the Holy Spirit will enlighten your mind and open your eyes and ears to hear all of the ways in which God is reaching out to you in the course of your day. Look around your actual life with a posture of adventure and ask the question: What is God wanting to show me today? A regular practice of immersing yourself in reading or listening to Scripture can help you to discern His voice, and other practices such as journaling, meditation and retreats can all help you to clarify God’s voice in your life in a particular way because these things turn the volume down on a very loud world. We need to turn down that volume in the ways that we can so that His still, small voice can break through all that noise, because God’s voice is quiet.
Remember the story in the Book of First Kings about Elijah.
“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
Well, when we hear that whisper, like Elijah, we will naturally put ourselves in a posture to hear more. It’s kind of how we’re made, and this posture can over time become a habit and that is exactly what we’re looking for here. From Scripture, we also know that God is gentle and that He does not condemn, so if we receive something counter to that, we can know that that does not come from God.
In the Book of John, it says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” In the Book of Matthew, He says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Okay, so, God’s voice is quiet. It’s gentle, and it does not condemn. That’s good for us to know. His voice is also wildly creative, and we know that from the beautifully poetic words in the Book of Genesis – after all, it’s the voice of God that is responsible for creating every living thing. And we also know that God can make Himself known in thoroughly unexpected ways, as He did when He became a human baby to a poor family in a tiny corner of the world. Okay, so, His voice is quiet and gentle. He does not condemn. He’s creative and unexpected. He does not demean or demoralize. He speaks in Love because He is love, and how wonderful is that for us to know. To further test our new lens, we can line up our communication with God with the Fruit of the Spirit. You remember those: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, because nothing that we receive authentically from the Spirit of God will be counter to the Fruit of His Spirit, and that is also very good news.
So, friend, I know that this topic might seem overwhelming for some of us today, but at the end of the day, listening for God for ourselves is a practice and it’s worth working on. The times we are living in are hard and confusing and we can’t always count on our leaders to steer us in the right direction. Our Church knows that our experiences matter as evidenced by the whole huge Synod focused on listening to everyday people like you and me that is in process right now all over the world. By the way, friend, is that happening where you are? Gosh, I hope so. But Jesus Himself also gave us a heads-up on just how important it would be for us to hear Him directly. He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Notice here, He did not say ‘my sheep listen to any particular leader’ or to a political party or organization or tribe or philosophy. He said they “listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me.” It’s designed to be a familial relationship, friends: intimate, knowing and trusting as He walks both with us and a little bit ahead.
As it says in 1John, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
Oh, friend, that is what we are. Children of a very good parent who wants to speak to each one of us in love if we’ll have ears to hear, so let’s practice listening, one day at a time.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. A reminder that I’ll be a part of a roundtable coming up on February 22 about Claiming Your Faith in the Midst of a Broken Church. It looks like it will be a wonderful conversation, and I hope you’ll join us via zoom! You can find more information in the show notes about that, along with information about how you can support this podcast financially if you’d like to do that, and finally, lots of resources about how to engage with this topic more deeply for yourself, so do check all of that out. Before we go today, though, let’s listen for God together.
If you’re walking right now, would you mind stopping just for a minute and if you’re busy at a task, maybe just stop and put your hand on your heart, close your eyes and breathe in and out with me. (breathe) Let these words seep in today, friend.
God, you created me in love and with purpose, and that’s how I know that
I am worthy.
I am seen.
I am fully known.
I am completely loved.
Trusting in these beautiful truths, Lord, what would You have me know today?
Thanks for listening friends, and I’ll see you next time.
In the last episode of a short series on mysticism, here are some practical ideas for you to develop your own mystical lens for yourself. I hope it’s a blessing to you!
Live Panel Discussion Via Zoom – JOIN US! I’ll be part of a roundtable discussion on 2/22/22 on How to Claim Your Faith in the Midst of a Broken Church, sponsored by the Cenacle Sisters of Chicago with a great group of Catholic thinkers. I hope you’ll join us, more information and registration here.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com!
1. Hope Booth interactive experience
2. Everyday mysticism reflections from Fr. James Martin: Have You Ever Had a Mystical Experience?A multi-part series on accessible mysticism by Fr. James Martin published by HuffPost, adapted from an essay from his book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life
Want to Experience God? You Already Have: Incompletion
Want to Experience God? You Already Have: Common Longings and Connections
Want to Experience God? You Already Have: Uncommon Longings
Want to Experience God? You Already Have: Exaltation and Clarity
Want to Experience God? You Already Have: Vulnerability
3. Podcast: The Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz
4. The Worldwide Synod on Synodality effort from Pope Francis
5. Corny but somehow really moving footage of sheep listening for and following their shepherds
6. Song: God Speaking, by Mandisa
7. The story of Samuel, who practiced tuning his ear to God
8. Song: Look Up, Child, by Lauren Daigle
9. Song: The Loudest Voice, by Ginny Owens
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