The Four Cornerstones of Drawing Closer to God
Trusting, Being Patient, Seeing the Big Picture – All are synonymous with a close relationship with God. Well, how does one draw closer? In the principal and foundation of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, we are told that every circumstance has the potential for calling forth in us a more loving response to God. The exercises go on to convey that our one desire and one choice should be whatever draws us closer to God whether health or sickness, wealth or poverty, etc. Given the uniqueness of Gods creation, it is certainly reasonable that different things draw different people closer to God. However, the following four cornerstones are “across the board” type traits that would seemingly draw each of us closer to God.
The first cornerstone is to “Be Still.” In Psalm 46, we are told "Be Still and know that I am God.” In fact, this is the basis of the Silent Insight (www.SilentInsight.com) daily Catholic mediations website. In our rush and go world, being still is no easy task for most individuals. Accordingly, the site provides a simple format and daily email with which to meditate and be still. By being still and making prayer a priority, we tap into the grace, peace and power of our creator. In James 5, we are told that “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” That’s pretty clear! Well then, what is the focus of our prayers? First, to whatever direction the spirit leads you then that shall be the focus. Subsequently, one may focus upon the knowing that “All is Gift” and consider God’s generosity. In a recent homily, Fr. Gregory of the Mustard Seed Community stated that first and foremost to “give thanks, give thanks, give thanks.”
By being still and praying, we come to hear God’s voice with greater clarity. Think of your best friend. Can’t you just imagine their voice, facial expressions, and mannerisms? Further, think about this friend and accordingly treat and act in a similar manner with God. You enjoy the company of this friend, share joys and pains, desire to spend time together, and you listen to one another. Think of the conversation, do you say, first we are going to discuss sports then politics then the weather and on and on. No, you go without an agenda. You have a clear “white board.” Just “Be” with God.
The second cornerstone is to “Be Mindful.” So, what does this mean? It means considering what you allow to enter your mind. What are you watching, reading and listening to? Our mind acts out what it takes in. Consider the programming of your mind and change it to draw closer to God. By changing the programming, we are putting on the armor of God. In 2 Thessalonians, we are told that “…the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. “ In essence, our minds require a daily metamorphosis to combat the programming of the world around us.
In order to defeat the old thoughts, one tool to use is the memorization of scripture. Check the categories listing in the left margin of the Silent Insight website. Each contains specific scripture related to the respective category. Further, psychologists tell us that our mind and body are essentially one and can’t differentiate a phrase or image as being real or imagined. Thus, what enters our mind provides much direction and control over our actions. Another tool is to use the “Matthew 6:33 Filter.” We are told in Matthew 6 to “… seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things will be given you.” Again, seek first the kingdom of God!! In doing so, use this to consider life’s decisions such as how you spend your time and resources.
The third cornerstone is to “Be Positive.” Consider again reading the classic from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, “The Power of Positive Thinking” - a classic but still very powerful! Time and time again in scripture, we see examples of those who have intense positive faith. Such examples include the woman in Luke 8 who just wanted to touch the cloak of Jesus (and did and was healed). How about the passionate conviction and positive attitude of the individuals in Mark 2 that carried the paralytic in through the roof!! Consider from Mark 10, the faith of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. Scripture gives us endless examples of being positive.
Being positive also goes hand in hand with second cornerstone of being mindful. How so? Well, pyschology tells us that the mind creates a picture of the self talk we input. Accordingly, positive and negative self talk subsequently materializes by what is most evident. Consider the 1957 World Series, between the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves, the great pitcher Warren Spahn was pitching to Elston Howard of the Yankees in the 9th inning. A coach for the Braves came out to the mound and told Spahn not to throw it high and outside. You can guess the rest of the story. The next pitch was high and outside with Howard hitting a home run. The prevalent thought was high and outside and thus the negative talk materialized in the actions. The lesson learned is to state what you want in the positive.
The fourth and final cornerstone is to “Be Not Afraid.” This is a constant message of scripture. Accordingly, one must conclude that if God mentions it that many times, it must be important! We have no guarantee of an easy “walk in the park” type life. In fact, we know and in most cases have experienced trials. However, in James 1, we are told to “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. “ Sure we desire perseverance as a trait but rarely do we seek out and enjoy trials. However, given that trials are inevitable, we have the comfort of the consistent message of “Be Not Afraid.”
Consider the visual and trembling fear of the disciples in the upper room. Then consider Jesus coming and telling them “Peace Be with You.” At that point, the fear and anxiety are replaced with peace and faith. Again, Be Not Afraid.
These cornerstones are just one of many tools available to us. However, with the focus upon the four discussed above, we can certainly draw closer to God and experience his hand at work. It was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who once said after a stoke and enduring the effects thereof that “It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.” May each individual who applies the above cornerstones truly feel the hand of God at work, welcome life’s circumstances and know that the present moment always provides the opportunity to draw closer to God.
- Brian Brown / May 2008
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