Relationships involve forms of communication and ways of spending time with each other that extends beyond our words and language. We implicitly acknowledge this reality within our friendships and romances, but yet we fail to take this in account in our relationship with God. Although our relationship with God is not exactly like our relationships with fellow humans, there is a strong connection between the two. We can learn a lot by recognizing their similarities while keeping in mind the differences.
In our everyday interactions, the idea of spending time in silence around others is a natural and normal part of our day. We generally recognize that you can spend time with a person by simply being in their presence, and we can do this in a spirit of generosity in which we are both attentive and present to the other person. When applying this truth to our relationship with God, many questions arise which do not have simple answers. How do we recognize God’s presence in our lives? How do we spend time in silence with him?
The reality is that being able to rest in the Lord is a gift that transcends our natural abilities. Although we can prepare to receive this gift through patient waiting, that moment of rest in which our natural faculties are elevated and we become still in the presence of God is something that cannot be produced by an act of the will. Such moments come at the most unexpected times and places, and often the leave a powerful impression on us. In fact, they seem to be moments of grace that give us the vitality and energy to return to our lives with a renewed sense of purpose.
These moments allow us to experience a foretaste of the joys of heaven. They leave our spirits refreshed, and they often help free us from our anxieties and fears. In this way, such divine touches can be an incredible assurance that we are not abandoned and that God is always with us. It is as though the Lord has pulled back the veil on reality and for a moment we witness the glory of God.
The fourth step of lectio divina, contemplatio or contemplation, is both a recognition of this natural progression from activity to rest and a guide to make time for this gift. If we fill our lives and our prayer with constant activity, we will make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts with his rest. Contemplatio helps us to appreciate that we need unscripted time. We need time to simply be with the Lord in longing expectation.
This is the last article in a series on the four steps of lectio divina.