Reflection on 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Mark 4:26-34, 2 Corinthians 5:6-17
All three scriptures this week refer to the hidden work of God. God looks not on outward appearance but on the hidden heart in choosing David. Jesus speaks of the seed that grows in secret only to burst forth as grain or a mighty shrub. Paul urges us to walk not by sight but by faith from the heart because we are a new creation born from above. The work of grace is a hidden work even from the believer. Even so, there are spiritual practices that can open us up to this work of God.
The first practice is the practice of repentance. Repentance has received a bad reputation because of those who practice extreme acts of contrition. One of the tenants of the protestant tradition is the firm assertion that nothing we can do including acts of repentance can earn God's love. Instead, repentance should be viewed as the daily act of remembering that we are not God. When we humbly release our illusion of control, we can begin to experience the power of God working in our lives. While this sounds easy, it is incredibly difficult given that our world functions based on the illusion of control. So how can we remind ourselves that we are not responsible for the salvation of ourselves or our world? One way is to think of repentance the same way we think of fiber in our diet. We need grain and fiber to ensure that our digestive track functions properly. Spiritually, repentance helps to break apart our pride and false sense of self importance. With these blockages removed, we can humbly and thankfully receive and let go of everything the world gives us. We find a balance between thinking too much or too little of ourselves. When we daily remember that God is God and we are a part of God's creation, our hearts become more open to the harmony and shalom God intended.
Another practice is being present with God. Just as experts recommend good sleep, daily exercise, and periods of calm breathing for a healthy heart, these can also be good for the soul. Throughout scripture, God speaks to us through our dreams. When we give God the successes and failures of our day, we often find a more peaceful sleep. This can also happen when we give God our concerns for an upcoming event before going to bed. In our sleep, God will sometimes provide new insight and options so that in the morning we are equipped to face the challenge. During the day, if we take time, maybe five minutes four times a day, to walk with Jesus, we will not only feel healthier and refreshed but we will experience a new perspective upon our day. Taking the same amount of time to simply be still and breath deeply allows us to calm our thoughts and center ourselves in God's presence. While all of these practices are good for the body, they also draw us deeper into the hidden mystery of God where the work of the Spirit is done.
A final practice is attentive listening. The Holy Spirit is constantly working within us to both equip and convict us. Just as we listen to our bodies to remind us to drink or eat certain foods with minerals and vitamins we need, we must listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. When we feel suddenly passionate about something or a piece of news catches our attention, it is time to seek discernment from the Spirit concerning what God is trying to say to us. We may be moved to action, prayer, or seeking deeper understanding. By attentively listening to the workings of God in our hearts, we soon begin to see God revealing a better and fuller life.
By incorporating a few spiritual practices into our lives, we begin to open our hearts to the power and mystery of God. This walking by faith soon results in spiritual fruits that enrich not only our lives but the lives of those around us. God is doing and will do incredible things in our lives even if they seem hidden to the world around us.