Advent Retreat Week Four: God Among Us
Who is God in our lives, and who do we believe that He is?
As we enter into this fourth and final week of Advent, there’s an urgency to remind ourselves of God’s closeness to us. As He enters physically into our world as a baby on Christmas, we’re reminded that He really is here, God among us, even now.
How we understand God defines everything. It influences our purpose for being, how we attend to our jobs and relationships, what we’re willing to sacrifice, and how deeply we’re able to love and forgive and serve. But in order to let Him influence us, we must first know Him.
And getting to know God, getting to know the person of Jesus, getting to know the Holy Spirit – it’s one of the hardest things to do as a Christian. It requires surrender, trust, and most of all, silence – which is rare, especially in today’s world. But without a personal relationship with God, our pursuit of holiness is futile. We cannot be who God created us to be if we do not first know Him. And if it sounds daunting (I know it felt impossible to me for many, many years), I want to offer some ideas on how to take the second step. And it’s the second step, because every day, and at every moment, God takes the first one.
On my flight home for the holidays, I watched the movie, The Shack, on Netflix. It was a little cheesy at points, but it also had beautiful moments (and I cried, so fair warning). The Shack tells the story of a man, Mack, whose daughter is killed, and in the wake of his sadness, he receives an invitation in the mail to return to the place of her death and meet God. The movie explores aspects of judgement, the Trinity, and forgiveness in the most devastating of circumstances. There are many great moments in the film, but what I think is most powerful is the portrayal of Mack’s individual relationship with each person of the Trinity. He bakes in the kitchen with God, he explores the lake with Jesus, and he helps the Holy Spirit care for a beautiful garden. It reminded me of a favorite prayer, in which you take a moment to engage with each member of the Trinity, to experience their unique love for you. My relationship with God is different from my relationship with Jesus, and over the past few years, my relationship with the Holy Spirit has blossomed through prayer and grace as well.
As a final offering in this retreat, I want to get a bit vulnerable (we’re all friends now) and share how I experience this prayer.
I start by focusing on God, the Father. In my prayer, He’s always holding my hand. The way I feel in prayer with God the Father is protected, nurtured, and encouraged. We’re often outside, on a mountain, in a meadow, with an expansive view of the gorgeous earth. In this prayer, I thank Him for all of His goodness, and I let Him love me, as a good, good Father.
When I turn my focus to Jesus, we’re usually on a boat. For a few years now, Jesus is paddling the boat, while I lay down in the bottom, with no vantage point to see where the heck we’re going. Every time I try to poke my head up over the side to check out our destination, He lovingly reminds me to lie back down and look at the stars – He’s navigating, and I know that I can trust Him because He has never steered me wrong. When I try to grab a paddle and help out, I typically capsize or crash the boat, so I’ve learned to hand the paddle back and return to stargazing. Even when I feel rapids and rocks under the boat, I can rest, completely surrendered, because Jesus is in charge. As I lie there, I talk to Him about my life, my fears, and the joys of daily life. He and I have a true friendship, and He never fails to offer me a new perspective on my questions and problems that fills me with peace and mercy.
My relationship with the Holy Spirit has grown so much over the past few years. For a long time, I didn’t know that I could have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, but it’s truly this relationship that I come back to the most each day. By inviting the Holy Spirit into my daily life, I’m able to discern His promptings throughout the day. I hear Him when He asks me to scan a woman into the Subway, when He tells me I need to take a walk to ease my stress, when He prompts me to reach out to a friend I haven’t spoken with in a while. The Holy Spirit is constantly guiding and nudging me – to prayer, to mass, to take my headphones out and be present to the people around me – and when I listen, I experience profound grace. With the Holy Spirit, I’m usually on a swing, and feeling so uplifted and carried by His presence.
I learned this prayer from a good friend, and Her experience of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is different from mine. Yours will be different from mine as well. And if you’re worried about truly knowing the persons of the Trinity, turning to Scripture is a beautiful way to come to know them. Their words, their personalities, their hearts are present on every page. And the Lord will more than meet you in this prayer because there’s nothing He wants more than You.
Our God is so personal. And He is always – always – pursuing us. Someone shared with me a few years ago a phrase that’s stuck with me: “Spirituality is man’s seeking for God, and Christianity is God’s pursuit of us.”
Please know of my prayers as we enter into the Christmas season. I am so grateful for you, and for this community that we have built. God bless you and your families!
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Jane was born in Australia, raised in California, and is overjoyed to now call NYC home. She graduated from UCSB with degrees in Political Science and Communication and spent the past two years working in criminal justice reform. She is currently an MBA student at NYU Stern, focusing on entrepreneurship and strategy.