I want to ask a tough question. “What’s God doing in and saying to you right now in your life?” I told you it’s a tough question. I’m not sure I could provide a stellar answer right now.
Sometimes the phrase “personal relationship with God” can become sterile and abstract. But ultimately, that question is the rubber-meets-the-road reality of an intimate and personal relationship with God.
Having to pause and think when I’m asked that question is a symptom of something amiss in my relationship with God. It shows I’m not aware of his work and voice, which is a constant in our lives. It is an indicator that my personal relationship may not be so “personal.” And in those moments, I can either honestly admit that or fabricate an answer in the attempt to appear more spiritual.
It would be similar if you asked me, “So how’s Debbie doing?” As her husband and friend, I should know. Not knowing is an indicator that our relationship may not be very personal at that time. The same is true for God.
A person that influenced my spiritual formation was Jean Pierre de Caussade. Here are a few quotes from him:
“The soul, light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child, responds to every movement of grace like a floating balloon.”
“The present moment is always full of infinite treasure. It contains far more than you can possibly grasp. Faith is the measure of its riches: what you find in the present moment is according to the measure of your faith. Love also is the measure: the more the heart loves, the more it rejoices in what God provides. The will of God presents itself at each moment like an immense ocean that the desire of your heart cannot empty; yet you will drink from that ocean according to your faith and love.”
“Those who have abandoned themselves to God always lead mysterious lives and receive from him exceptional and miraculous gifts by means of the most ordinary, natural and chance experiences in which there appears to be nothing unusual. The simplest sermon, the most banal conversations, the least erudite books become a source of knowledges and wisdom to these souls by virtue of God’s purpose. This is why they carefully pick up the crumbs which clever minds tread underfoot, for to them everything is precious and a source of enrichment.”
A personal relationship with God is living aware of what God is doing and saying in the present moment. This doesn’t come naturally and requires us to develop a few skills.
Observation — We must learn to look around. We must develop eyes that look for God in everything.
Attention — We must learn to pay attention. This goes deeper than just looking. It’s looking at the details. It’s looking at the big picture. It’s noticing what may not be immediately apparent.
Reflection — We must learn to ponder and pray about what we see and notice. Many times we may see things that require us to then look at our own heart and ask tough questions.
Observation. Attention. Reflection. I know this is corny, but we need to take up our O.A.R. if we want to properly guide the raft of our lives through the rapids. Otherwise, we remain adrift and at the mercy of any random or destructive current.
God is moving and speaking constantly to us. His voice may come through a sermon, a Scripture, a song, a conversation, a circumstance, a whisper in our heart. Or sometimes simply in the silence.
A good place to begin practicing these skills are with the major movements in one’s life. Have you just experienced or are ready to begin a significant event? What might God be saying? Are you experiencing depression, stress, loneliness, or other pain? What might be God be saying in the middle of it? Are you in a life-changing relationship? What might God be saying? Did you hear a sermon that grabbed your attention? Are the ideas in a particular book captivating you? Did someone say something to you that keeps banging around in your head? Is there a Scripture passage that keeps grabbing your attention?
God is present in every facet of our lives. There’s not a single part in which he is absent. As we learn to sense his movement in the major moments, then we hone our skills to sense his presence in the more minute and mundane areas.
In every life’s detail, O.A.R. are skills that enable us to become more aware of God’s gentle movements and voice.