Well friend, it’s been two weeks since my last post. It seems longer though, and I have missed you!
In my last post, I announced I would be doing a series on hearing God’s voice. Over the last two weeks I have been getting familiar with a Benedictine meditation practice called the Lectio Divina. This is simply a method of slowly reading scripture in a way that allows you to savor each word and expectantly hear from God. I am excited to write about my experiences with this practice, but I want one more good week of practice before I pick everything apart (also, the first week and a half was fumbling and awkward and I’m only now beginning to feel I’m in a groove!).
So in today’s post, I want to share what I learned while I was still getting use to the meditation process.
While I was doing research on the Lectio Divina, trying to understand the processes and how to do it correctly, I noticed most sources suggested opening my time of meditation with something called a centering prayer. This is a simple, often one word, prayer that’s sole purpose is to quiet the mind and help you focus on a solitary, peaceful idea. It primes the mind to read scripture deeply.
One website I read suggested a series of words one might use during this time: shalom, peace, love, Abba, etc. As I read over this list several times, I wondered what word I might use as my centering prayer. I wanted something meaningful, personal. Almost immediately a word popped into my head: Daughter.
Perhaps ‘daughter’ may seem a strange choice, but the moment I heard it, I know that was the perfect word to begin my time with God. The truth is, I struggle connecting with God as His daughter. I may even go so far as to say I struggle with receiving God’s love as His daughter.
I know a lot of people who struggle to see God as a father, because they have had hurtful earthly fathers. I have a fantastic earthly father, and honestly I love the idea of God as my father, but for some reason, I can’t always see myself as His daughter.
I think it’s because I am afraid to be that vulnerable with Him. I’ve never really loved the idea of Jesus as the “Lover of my Soul”. It’s always felt a little…weird. I once had a friend ask if I have ever just sat and basked in His love for me and I felt my face cringe at the mere suggestion of it. I’m much more comfortable talking with God when there’s a desk between us. You know…a big wooden desk covered in lots of important papers and fancy pens and a plaque or two. A business desk.
I adore talking business with God. That’s mostly what we do, actually: “Lord I need vision for women’s ministry this fall, how can we meet our ladies’ needs?” or “Lord, I need a topic for this weeks’ blog post- what do you want me to share?” or “So and So needs your peace today, please reveal ways I can be a blessing to her”…and on, and on, and on. Always with the ‘action’s, never with the ‘being’s.
So, as I began to try out this new spiritual discipline, I decided to try my best to be vulnerable. To be a daughter and not a business partner. Here’s what it looked like:
The first morning I started this, I settled on the couch with a cup of coffee and said “good morning” to God. As I began my centering prayer I simply repeated the word ‘daughter’ a few times, trying to push out every other thought (like, “This feels so dumb”). The various sources I read regarding a centering prayer suggested using imagery and imagination to help focus on your word. So I allowed my mind to wander, developing pictures or movies of what it means to be God’s daughter.
I first imagined walking into the entryway of my dream house. Without much conscious thought, I took off a heavy necklace and placed it on a small table beside me. Then I took off a second necklace, and a third. As I did this, I realized I was taking off my roles. I wasn’t going to enter that room as the “Women’s Ministry Team Leader” or as an “aspiring writer” or even as a “wife” or “mother”. I wanted to go in to my time with God simply as his daughter. Mary Kathryn, God’s daughter. That’s it.
Once I had peeled off all of my business armor, I imagined walking into the sunlit living room where God was waiting for me. I wasn’t sure what to do next so, I thought about what it’s like to be my earthly dad’s daughter. In my family, we hug each other every time we say hello (we’re not exactly to the Full House/Tanner Family level of hugging, but we’re close). It’s such a small thing, but I love hugging my dad. So, I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to hug God.
The first thing I imagined is how it would feel. I imagined His hug would be warm, and that the robe He was wearing would envelope me as he wrapped His arms around me, warming my whole body. I took a deep breath in, and imagined that God would smell like warm, fresh laundry. My favorite part of the day is getting in bed and burrowing into my sheets- inhaling their fresh scent, so this was a particularly comforting and fitting smell.
I was so captivated by the sweetness of this image that I allowed myself to just sit there, hugging God for a long time. In fact, had I been hugging a human I would have undoubtedly been given the “three-tap-pat”. You know, the one people do when they want you to stop hugging them- as if they are saying “That’s-E-Nough”. God never gave me the three-tap-pat. He just hugged me, seemingly happy to have me in His arms.
Once I decided I had hugged God long enough, I wanted to imagine where we might sit to have a good conversation. Not a business meeting, a conversation. I thought for a while and then decided we might walk out onto a porch and sit on a swing. I envisioned myself sitting on one end, my feet up on the seat, my back against the arm, a cup of coffee in my lap. He sat next to me, facing out, arm draped along the back of the swing, also drinking coffee. And we talked. I fought the urge to list my daily report in that time and instead tried to share with Him the same insignificant desires, fears, concerns, excitements I would share with my parents.
The calm, the peace, that feeling I felt the whole time I was on that porch distracted me from doing the actual Lectio Divina that morning. I just spent that whole time in prayer, on that swing with my Father.
You know what I found most amazing about that exercise? I swear I smelled fresh laundry the rest of the day. And that peace I felt? That stuck with me too. It’s as if a part of me lingered on that porch all day long. It was the best.
I wouldn’t say that I “heard from God” that day, but I definitely connected with Him in a new way. That exercise gave me a tool to help me let down my guard before praying or reading scripture. The next few mornings, I would walk through an abbreviated version of that scenario before diving into scripture and I believe it prepared me to hear from Him.
This post is already too long, so I’ll end here, but I hope you’re intrigued by what I experience and perhaps you’ll consider incorporating a centering prayer into your time with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be something you do every morning, but it’s a great tool and one the Lord can use express His great love for you.