Christiane Squires, a trained spiritual director, writes about finding one’s shared language with God — how the way you and God communicate is a language all its own and doesn’t have to look or sound the way everyone else’s does.
“Where, in your life experience, have you had what you would name to be an experience of God? What were the circumstances? How would you describe what God was like in that moment?
Perhaps for you, your experiences of God happen in a certain environment — when you go walking in the woods, or when you experience worship, or when you’re surrounded by people you love.
These are experiences you can potentially replicate, and if they cause you to feel God’s nearness, I encourage you to continue in them. These can be forms of prayer for you, places to return again and again when you want to commune with God.
Or perhaps for you, an experience of God happened in a single, solitary moment — when you received the Eucharist one time at church and something happened that you can only name as God; or when you received a healing prayer and the other person’s touch on your ailing arm or shoulder or foot burned with an energy that felt like God’s own Spirit touching you; or when you engaged with a stranger at a store and walked away thinking you’d seen the face of an angel or even God.
These one-time experiences of God are holy and hard to put into words. They aren’t meant to be re-created or revisited. They’re gifts in a moment, something for which we can often only ponder in our hearts, marveling that they happened at all.
But they can become a shared language with God for us even still. How? By noticing what they revealed to us of what God is like.
When you received that bread and wine in that moment, or when you felt the Spirit of God conferred on you through that healing touch, or when you encountered that nameless angel in the grocery aisle . . . how would you describe what God was like in that moment? Perhaps that God is transcendent. Or near. Or full of expanse and light. Or humble and kind.
Naming what God was like for you in that moment God gave you as gift can become a touchstone for you and God to share in other areas of your life even now. You can measure current experiences against it. It can provide a way of saying, “I know what God’s presence feels like for me, and this is or isn’t it.”
Squires describes an application to her own life.
One of the ways Kirk and I have noticed God’s work in our life together is through invitations that we have come to call “emerging stones.” These are moments when a way appears before us like a stone emerging out of water. We may or may not have been looking for a stepping stone at the present moment, but suddenly there it is: an invitation forward that we didn’t create for ourselves but that feels like an inviting opening and way forward.
We discovered this “emerging stone” language with God when we first met. We weren’t looking for each other, but there each other was, and it only made sense to keep saying yes to each new step of getting to know one another.
When we found the house we live in now, it was also an “emerging stone.” We weren’t looking to move out of our current home, but then there was this house with a sign on its front lawn and seemingly made just for us, and suddenly the question presented itself. It felt like an emerging stone.
This “emerging stone” experience has happened enough times in our life together now that it’s a common language we have with God in our marriage. When new opportunities present themselves to us, we ask, “Does this feel like an emerging stone? Does it feel like something appearing up out of the water before us, inviting us to step upon it?”
If it does, that shared history of our language with God becomes a way we know to say yes. If it doesn’t have that flavor or feel, we take more time to discern but often find ourselves saying no.
What do your experiences of God teach you about the way you and God communicate? What do they teach you God is like
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