It is cold.
It is cold and dark.
it is cold and dark and quiet.
I pick up two “devotional” books, little nuggets of thoughts to “prime the pump.” Reading the daily thoughts would take about 45 seconds (a bit more, if I’m really tired, for re-reading). Living out the thoughts there would take a lifetime.
But that’s what I’m here for.
I put the two books aside, and take a sip of the still-too-hot coffee.
I check my phone timer, and set it to 20 minutes.
A deep breath, a whispered prayer:
“God, I am here, speak to me.”
Then a slow descent into the silence.
My first thoughts are slowly nudged away, using the imagery of a slow lazy river. I know that if I allow them to drift away, they will leave me. More will follow them, but they, too, will leave if I just release, surrender them to the flow of the river.
My mind is active—I have still-officially-undiagnosed ADD—but I slowly and gently introduce the word that I use to signify my intention and willingness to both myself and to God.
This gentle back and forth will continue for the next 18 minutes or so: my mind will drift, and I will gently nudge it back by a combination of my will and a surrender to God’s work and presence.
I continue to sit.
Thoughts come: some of them “To Do” items that will wait.
I release them.
Thoughts come: amazing ministry ideas, an angle on a conversation I need to have.
I release them too. I trust that they will either be there waiting for me when the time is over, or that they were not important enough for me to retain in the first place.
Either way, there will be time for them later.
Redirect my mind back.
I wonder how much time have I been sitting?
Out of weakness and a deeply ingrained humanity, I steal a peak at my timer.
I sit some more.
The darkness is spacious, inviting, and eternal.
(Much like God.)
I sink deeper and deeper into this place that requires nothing of me but to be still, to simply, well, be.
I sit some more.
Occasionally, I touch something, something that is way beyond my human experience, a wonder and a peace and a grace that is simply overwhelming; it’s amazing how uncomfortable it can be to truly confront the wonder.
I’m thankful that God makes allowances for my human limitations.
But even those transcendent experiences need to be released; I am after something different here. I am after the deep mystery and darkness of God, and so I trade the known for the unknown, the trumpet for the silence, the sight for the blindness.
In other words, I’m seeking pure faith.
The timer goes off on my phone.
Who knew 20 minutes could feel so long?
Regardless of my experience in prayer, I thank God. This is an important discipline for me, because one of the central truths of my humanity is that I cannot wholly trust my human experience to evaluate and determine the spiritual “success” of an activity. I simply have no way of knowing what God has truly done in my life; I only trust that He is working.
“Trust in the slow work of God,” indeed.