TAKING GOD WITH ME
A friend of mine, when discussing prayer at the 12 step recovery meetings we attended would always emphasize the same point. “When you leave the house make sure that you take God with you,” he would say; “don’t leave him behind in the bedroom.” I think about this in relation to my own prayer life and quiet time with God. In my home I have a small extra room, sparsely furnished with a rocking chair and table on which sit my Bible and several daily devotionals. While not as consistent as I would like to be, I’ve nonetheless come to cherish the set aside time in the morning that I spend there. I’m encouraged by the words in Matthew 6:6 instructing us that when we pray to “go into your room, close the door and pray to your father who is unseen.” I’m afraid I have to admit that there is a small sense of self-satisfaction that creeps in at the thought that I am doing “the God thing” correctly. On those times when I am not as consistent, it is usually because I have decided to take a walk in the morning instead.
Morning is very much my favorite time of day. It is the time when I find myself most energetic and engaged and I often try to capitalize on that feeling as it tends to diminish as the day goes on. Imagine my excitement then when St. Patrick’s in Ravena adopted the practice of leaving the sanctuary open from dawn to dusk. I could now walk up to the local Stewarts and stop at the church for some prayer time on my way back. This quickly became part of my new routine. Like most routines, however, an underlying presence of rigidity slowly began to establish itself. This was revealed to me one beautiful morning as I was walking back towards home. The air was crisp, the sunshine brilliant, and the birds were chirping in a manner best described as rejoicing. As I approached the church with the intent of entering the sanctuary, a voice, not quite audible but powerful nonetheless, suggested that I wasn’t quite getting it. I came to the realization that God was all around me and that to enter a manmade structure, no matter how beautiful, would be akin to leaving him in the bedroom as my friend Harold would say.
Looking back on Matthew 6:6, and the numerous translations of that passage, I notice that several versions instruct us to go into our “inner” room. I am grateful for the small space in my home as well as the traditional places of worship which I frequent. How much space, however, am I setting aside in my interior life? How large are the dimensions of my inner room? Is God a true companion on my life journey, or is he crammed into my carry-on luggage, stowed away in some cosmic overhead compartment.
I think about the benediction given at the end of our service encouraging us to “break out of these walls” into our communities, work places, and the world at large. I think often of my friend, Harold, who has recently completed his own life’s journey. I never knew if he had any religious affiliations or if he attended services. He never spoke about God in that context. He did, however, provide to me and many others in our 12 step fellowship sound, practical spiritual advice. It is advice that I occasionally adhere to when leaving the sanctuary after worship, glancing over my shoulder to make sure that I am indeed taking God with me.
-- Ray Reuter, Elder