Life is complicated: without partners and friends, it is also incomplete. Relationships reveal what is most sacred in human life: the connections to what is greater than self. It allows for scaling the mountain of learning to love and delving the depths of capacity for love. And yet, it is both tender and fragile. Relationships require courage and commitment, purpose and promise. Alternately treasured and taken for granted, relationships shape the worlds we choose to live in. They provide parameters and possibilities, and allow for growth. In the same way that relationships create, they can also destroy. Therein lies the choice. And it is complicated.
Forging a relationship with God, with the Divine Presence, is no different. It requires the element of risk, to take the chance to explore. It demands the humility of learning how to be with another, of acknowledging one another. It means trusting, in a world harnessed to data and neuroscience, that there is something as mysterious as the Divine, something that truly exists and inhabits this human space as something entirely “other”.
It is lived out in as many ways as there are persons. The capacity for it varies, but the nature of it is visible in the lives of those who dare to embrace it. It is transformative and genuine, challenging and purposeful. Most of all, it is extremely simple. It is in the small acts of everyday kindness that convey a deep trust in life and goodness of others. It is in the ability to seek something more, something more meaningful, in the most simple of acts: washing a floor, sweeping, gardening, greeting a neighbor.
To live a life in the Presence of God means knowing flaws and failure are partners on the path, and continually learning more about self is a necessity. Like any relationship, it is a lifetime’s work. But it is work worth risking for, worth doing and becoming. The pathways are there: there was Francis and his long weeks in the hermitage at the Carceri. It was time apart, doing what Cal Newport might term today “Deep Work”. But for Francis, it was deep work about exploring the intricacies of his relationship with God and allowing that to inform the choices and decisions he made when he left. There was Benedict and the exhortation to “pray and work”, to know in the practices of everyday that there can be a divine rhythm. There is Merton who reminds us of the humanity, the sinful and the flawed that ride that tide. There is Clare who shows the benefits of being attentive through choosing to be poor and simple. There is the wisdom of Teresa of Avils’s prayer that the Divine dwells within each one of us: “Christ has no body now but yours. no hands, no feet on earth but yours.” Centuries past provide the foundation for exploring the Divine Milieu proclaimed by Teilhard de Chardin. In an age pcokmarked by shrinking attention spans and reliance on Artifical Intelligence, there is still something to be said for the reality of Divine Presence.