I was on retreat last weekend and the retreat leader said this: We can tire of receiving God’s gifts before God tires of giving gifts to us.
Do you think that’s true? How frequently do you notice God’s gifts to you? How frequently do you manage to turn away—consciously or not, distracting yourself with news or Netflix, to-do lists or activities? (Stay tuned for more on that theme of distraction next week….)
In this fast-paced culture, we are called to slow down, open up, and pay attention to the ways God is working in our lives. The retreat I attended was about the Examen, which is a process for noticing and reflecting on what God is doing in our lives. It’s also about noticing where and how we live in sync with God, and where and when we fall short. The point of the process is not to beat ourselves up, but to notice, and to tap into our desire to connect more fully with God’s abundant gifts.
There’s a difference between slowing down and stopping. During my retreat, there was lots of quality time for silence, and I was grateful for that gift from God. However, during most of my days—and yours, I suspect—we can’t go into silence and stillness for hours at a time without failing in our commitments to ourselves and others.
We can, however, slow down at multiple times during the day, to breathe, open ourselves to God’s presence, and notice what comes forth. We can engage in a brief conversation with God about what’s going on. We can give thanks for the multitude of gifts, large and small, that rain down on us throughout our days.
Rain was a subtext of our weekend retreat, as the remnants of Hurricane Sergio passed through southern Arizona. God’s gift of rain in the desert is always a joy—although sometimes it can cause flooding problems since the earth here is not so absorbent as in other places. The mountains look radically different when wreathed in clouds. Tiny palo verde leaves capture water-droplet diamonds that reflect the sun. The smell of wet desert is unmistakably different. Each of these is a gift from God—to me and to all the thirsty critters for whom this rain is a boon indeed!
Receiving requires vulnerability. Whether we reach out an open hand or crack open the defenses of our hearts, openness is a necessary precursor to receiving gifts. Even the dry and thirsty land must crack open to receive the rain, or that precious moisture will run off elsewhere.
In what ways are you open to God’s gifts? In what ways have you tired of, or become distracted from, receiving or even noticing God’s gifts? Do you close yourself down from God’s abundance? Take time to notice your patterns of being closed or being vulnerable. Where is God inviting you to open more?