People, from infants to the elderly, thrive spiritually when they have enough free time to relax, create, and pray. We all need unscheduled time, time to be bored in a positive sense because boredom can the birthplace of authentic spirituality and creativity. Self- obsessed business is often a superficial way of trying to obtain a sense of meaning and worth on our own, without God. When we refrain from distracting ourselves with what we think are important activities and embrace boring silence, we make ourselves available to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit. God, then, has an opportunity to connect with us.
Most of us take ourselves too seriously, striving to succeed in life through hard work and well- thought out financial savings plans. We end up attacking the problem of how to progress in the spiritual life with a similar work ethic when all along God invites us to be open and flexible enough to respond to His lead. God is always the one who reveals- we simply respond to Him if and when we have time to hear Him. Thomas Merton observes:
Time to Play and Pray
What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as "play" is perhaps what he Himself takes most seriously. At any rate, the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.
When I first started to mother, I was determined to raise committed Catholic Christians and so I tried too hard. I had the mistaken notion that my kids were blank slates and I personally had to teach them everything. I assumed the role of the serious teacher, the resident expert. God had to shake me out of this arrogant stance by humbling me in the face of my children's unique, innate spirituality. Kids have a pure, open relationship with the heavenly Father and Mother Mary because they don't take themselves too seriously and so they have free time to play and pray.
Although kids need formal catechetical formation in the Catholic faith, adults must learn how to respect God's direct relationship with them. Infants are created in the heart of God; He knew them in the womb and they knew God. Then at baptism, these little people become one with Christ. I discovered this initial sacrament is not simply a meaningless ritual but a real life, powerful encounter which actually transformed my children into little spiritual people who could teach me about the nature of God and life in the Spirit. As I mothered nine children, I finally learned how to give God the time and opportunity to touch, love and speak to my kids. Unstructured, boring time is time to play and pray. Kid's innate spirituality rises up from within their own spirits as they listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in their own hearts. Often what came out of our children's mouths surprised and startled my husband and I. Yet both of us were aware of the deep spirituality which flowed from our children to us.
Let the Children Come to Me
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I appointed you as prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1: 5)
For example, I was rocking newborn Mary one afternoon while eighteen-month-old Ann sat on her Dad's knee, slowly waking up from a long nap. The serious topic of discussion for the last hour had been,
"How on earth can we manage to get to church as a family with three little ones, all on different schedules?"
Every choice of mass or church had some complication or difficulty that seemed insurmountable. It seemed an impossible situation and I resigned myself to simply staying at home on Sundays for the time being.
Suddenly, we were both startled as a flushed and distraught three-year-old Mark came running into the kitchen. He was still groggy from his nap but was able to yell in very loud voice,
"Jesus says come, Jesus says come!"
Our eyebrows shot up, our eyes popped and our mouths literally hung open as we stared at each other in shocked silence.
The deep discussion was over.
God had spoken through the most open person in our house- a three-year-old. Listen to this debate between two of my pre-schoolers.
Two Pre-Schoolers Show the Way
I assure you," He said, 'unless you are converted and become like children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven' [Matthew 18:4]
It was early evening. We often played musical beds at bedtime because the younger children liked the security of a sibling or two falling asleep with them, especially when older brothers and sisters were still up and having fun. So it happened that I was laying down on Emily's bed nursing an infant while she played with my hair and sucked her thumb. Five-year-old David was almost asleep across the room. His breathing was slow and deep. The only other sound in the peaceful room came from a fan which created just enough white noise to drown out the other kid's voices.
David suddenly sat straight up in bed, popped his eyes open and yelled excitedly,"Someone just called my name. I think it was God!"
Emily took her thumb out of her mouth and lisped,"Who's God?"
I turned my head to look at her and smiled, "You know, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Emily was still puzzled, "You mean the priest at church?"
"No", I responded, "The God who fills the whole universe."
Emily took her thumb out of her mouth and said very dismissively,"Oh, Him. I know Him." Then she closed her eyes and stuck her thumb back in her mouth. Discussion closed.
I barely held in my laughter. This little squirt took for granted her close relationship with the Living God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God is close to babies and little children. His relationship with them is not complicated, as natural as breathing. They are simply His children; He loves them and they reflect love back.
David interrupted and added joyfully,"Well, He called my name!"
Emily opened her eyes and stated very authoritatively but in a nasal, little girl voice,"It was just your imagination, Daaave." Then she closed her eyes and started sucking her thumb again.
David was upset. I countered her statement,"It could be God, Emily. The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and does communicate with us." David was satisfied and he lay back down to sleep. Emily just closed her eyes and popped her thumb back in her mouth.
I was astounded, one of my preschoolers had heard the voice of God and the other took a relation with the Heavenly Father completely in her stride as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I think a deep connection with Christ is not complicated but most adults do not understand the simplicity of God. God has inscribed His fingerprint on our hearts. It is hidden in our deepest self. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness, and simply stop long enough to listen, we too can hear the voice of Christ and allow Him to draw us close to His heart.
A Deep Connection to God
If you are a secret cynic, or simply someone like me who tried to no avail to connect to God in my own strength, why not give God permission to save you from yourself? Start wasting time on God. Allow yourself to play and even give yourself time to be bored just like a child.