Any man starting on a spiritual journey can feel like he is doing all the work. He is the one searching for God, trying to feel close to Him, and looking for ways to connect to Him. Some days he feels as if he is gaining ground, others as if he has slid backward, and still other days leave him confused and wondering where he is. But the bottom line is still the same: he is the initiator and God is hopefully going to respond to his efforts.
But what if the truth is in the opposite direction? What if God is the initiator and is out searching for him? What if God is looking earnestly for him, seeking to connect to him? How is he to respond to God now? Here’s how:
Let God come close.
It’s so counter-intuitive. But this is exactly how Jesus pictured His Father at work, always searching for us like lost sheep or lost money (See Luke 15:1-10). A number of things follow from this. Here are two of them.
Find Space and Time to Stop
This first one is pretty obvious. If God is searching for us and trying to speak to us, perhaps we need to stop and listen. Men are often so busy or distracted that they miss all the subtle ways God is trying to come close. But when a man stops and becomes still in the silence, all those distractions move offstage. The presence of God becomes front and center stage. He learns that all the great transformations in his soul happen when he lets God come close.
At first stopping like this for any extended time may feel like a great sacrifice. But the more a man chooses to stay here, the more he enjoys what it feels like to be in communion with God. Anxiety, fear, shame begin to drop off like unnecessary weights. He discovers his truest self and his mission in life. And his whole being is permeated with new possibilities.
Allow God To Love You
Second, we have a million good reasons why we shouldn’t be loved. Our deep psyche heaves them up and unconsciously spews them out over all of relationships. God is no exception to this. We are convinced at some non-verbal level that we shouldn’t be loved, that we can’t be loved, or that we wouldn’t be loved if others really knew us. This closed-off posture tinges every interaction and every conversation, especially our conversation with God in prayer.
But when we let God come close, all of this is dismantled. Here is God’s one mission: to unite us to Himself in an ever-deepening bond of love. We come to realize that He longs to come close to us. He desires that we experience His love for us as His sons. He wants our company and our communion.
Letting God Come Close
One of my chief desires as a spiritual director is to help men let God come close. Sometimes this means helping a man structure silence with ideas for prayer. Sometimes it means stopping during our session together and letting him sit with God. At other times, I’ll guide him through a prayer meditation and afterwards we will talk about what happened.
Recently, I asked a man to imagine himself in a place that felt quiet and safe and then invite Jesus to join him there. I’m always surprised by what happens. This was no exception. He pictured himself on top of one of his favorite mountains, viewing the vast panorama below him. When he invited Jesus to join him, He came and sat next to him, putting His arm on the back of his neck in a brotherly gesture. It was Jesus’ unique way of coming close to this man.
Let God come close. There are surprises awaiting as you do.
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Photo by Tim-Bogdanov on Wunderstock (license)