On a recent afternoon, I spent time praying with friends for common concerns and people in need of God's intercession, as well as for kind mercies. As I looked up from what turned out to be only our first round of petitions, I met the eyes of the woman across from me. They looked like I felt: drunk.
I can begin to understand (or at least feel) what my alcoholic friends and relatives (now sober or not) appear to have experienced -- an overpowering pull toward the bottle. For me, it is the power of the bottle of prayer.
There is something about the sweetness of prayer that induces in me a kind of stupor. For some reason, I have not spoken of it to others (yet perhaps I should). I wonder if they, too, have felt it. If I were to judge by the eyes of some of my prayer partners, I would hazard a positive answer to that question. With one friend who is a frequent dinner partner, for example, we often cannot speak for a few minutes after saying a heartfelt grace. It is indeed akin to being under the influence, but in this case it is the influence of the all-consuming presence of God.
Similarly, I find more and more often now that I simply do not want to step away from contemplation, from that sense of union, from being part of something far greater than anything of this earth, from sifting into the presence of a loving God. I belong to a contemplative prayer group, and when Fr. Kevin pulls us out of contemplation back into a social environment, I increasingly feel immense resistance. I don't want Fr. Kevin, as good as he is and has much as I love and admire him. I want God. I want to stay in contemplation without any regard for the world around me.
When I am home, it is possible to remain in contemplation for longer than I plan although it has happened that I have ended up late at work as a result. How then does one balance an earthly life and job (a job, in fact, which God insisted I take and keep) and the desire to spend ever more time with God? How do you, dear blog readers, do it? At times, I envy those who have been called to a contemplative life or who do not have to work or have intervening responsibilities that would would pull them away from contemplation at length. Then, I remember that God put me in my job and that in it I have already had many opportunities to help Him help others -- and it is an interesting, rewarding job. He chose well for me. I love what I do, and I love that He is there with me all the time and makes a difference for many people.
So, I am back to my original question. How does one balance the spiritual life against the secular life. Spiritualize earthly experiences? My workplace does seem to be becoming very spiritual. God is not only present with me but also with many of my employees, especially the senior managers who work directly for me. God is there not just in our personal beliefs, but in our conversations, in our decisions -- I am extremely pleased from time to time when a senior manager decides to break a rule for the benefit of an employee. I am extremely pleased that I can use spiritual leadership guidance, in particular servant leadership, in developing new and junior leaders. I am extraordinarily pleased to see my once secularly oriented boss now occasionally do the same. Perhaps that is why God wanted me in that job, so that He could make these kinds of changes there. Perhaps there is a different reason that I will come to know or never know. Why God wanted where I am does not matter. He wanted it, and I am here. That matters. And so, again, I am left with the question of balance.
But perhaps I am not seeing clearly. Perhaps I do have it without seeing it for even if I have to end a session of contemplation before I feel ready and even if there is no time for anything except a snatch of prayer here and there during the day, perhaps as short as one word, "Help!", I can feel God with me all the time. So can the senior managers. I think we are all, using Brother Lawrence's term, practicing the presence of God, and that should be sufficient.
But again, and finally, I will raise the question to you. What are your experiences? Successes? Frustrations? Solutions?