By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 6, 2022
The first day of the new year was blissfully balmy with temperatures in the 70s. I took an early morning walk just as the birds were starting to stir. Other people were out, and many waved and wished me “Happy New Year!”
Some, however, ignored me because they were listening to music or podcasts or whatever. They proceeded along like sleepwalkers, unaware of birdsong and the whispering wind.
I flew back from Tampa after Christmas vacation and noticed the vast majority of people in the airport were staring at their phones. As I struggled to lift my suitcase off the conveyor belt at the baggage claim area, the two young men near me were glued to their phones and didn’t offer a hand. How could they when they never saw me?
In “The Song of Songs” we read about a woman searching for God. “Let me rise then and go about the city, through the streets and squares; let me seek him whom my soul loves.”
How often we go through an entire day ignoring God. We are just so amazingly busy, from the moment we awaken until the moment we climb into bed at night. We just don’t have time to seek “him whom my soul loves.”
Truth be told, unless we’re in a monastery, we probably won’t stop to pray numerous times a day. But what about 15 minutes for our very best friend? Often we tell him through our actions, “I’m too busy for you.”
A child soon gets the message when an adult’s attention is divided. Sometimes parents push the stroller along while staring at phones. Instead of showing a flower to the baby, they’re transfixed by social media.
This morning I saw a young father walking with his little boy, who was carrying a stick. The boy had stopped to study something on the ground, and the father just stood there, ever so patient, letting the child enjoy the moment.
The father wasn’t staring at a screen; he was watching the boy explore the world. These are the times children remember, when an adult gave them undivided attention.
Some of us aren’t sure how to give God our attention. We suspect there’s a complicated recipe known only to mystics. In fact, we can befriend God in the ordinary moments of our everyday lives.
Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened to you.” Spending time in silence with Jesus is a way to knock on the door. We can sit on the porch and tell Jesus this time is our gift to him. We can track the graceful movement of the clouds, which are his handiwork.
In “Beginning to Pray,” Anthony Bloom puts it so simply, “You settle down and you say, ‘Here I am,’ and you are.” If 15 minutes seems daunting, start with five.
Will we get distracted and fidgety? Yes, but before long, we grow accustomed to silence and we start yearning for it. As we befriend God, we’ll feel out of sorts when we can’t spend time with him.
Bloom writes about an elderly woman who sought his advice on prayer. He advised her to give God 15 minutes each day. After putting this into practice, she reported to him that “All of a sudden I perceived that the silence was a presence. At the heart of the silence there was Him who is all stillness, all peace, all poise.”
In the new year, let’s pray we can experience this peace, which surpasses all understanding. Let’s echo the words from “The Song of Songs” when we find the one we love: “I held him and would not let him go.”