You know that moment when you plug your destination into Waze, and you hope and thinking, “Am I going to make it on time?…Waze says I’ll get there 5:23pm…but maybe the traffic will lighten up? Or it will find me a short cut??” A couple of weeks ago I was caught in that circumstance. Chugging along, I periodically glanced at my ETA on Waze to see if I was making good time. As I was looking at the predicted time and hoping some minutes would magically tick off the total, I realized it was actually already passed the ETA I was hoping for! As if Waze could turn back in time!
The “Waze” of Man
That was a great wake-up call for me. How often do we rush around in life wishing for more time, less traffic, more hours in the day? I bet most of us can identify with the experience of feeling pressured by time constraints. And while technology like Waze can help us navigate traffic and road hazards, it can also feed some pretty bad habits if we let it. If we aren’t careful, we’ll find that rather than being in charge of how we use technology, we can let technology be in charge of how we make decisions.
What a great Lenten wake up call to the fact that God’s ways are not our ways! Surely He didn’t mean for us to live our lives in such “waze” as these. God IS a part of our daily existence – and wants to be more so! Our whole life – how we move through the hours of the day, how we work, how we engage in relationships – was designed by Him to be a harmony of the natural and supernatural. Yet more and more, we participate either actively or passively to this process of pushing God into a corner, and relegating everything religious to Sunday mornings – if that! Surely that is not His way nor His purpose for us.
Lent is a special and holy time, ripe with opportunities for deepening our self-knowledge and striving for holiness, that we might see the ways we’ve wandered and ask anew for God’s transforming grace. In what “ways” do I live my life? And are my ways in harmony with God’s ways? How can we discover God’s ways and strive to live more in tune with Him?
Silence is an ancient and absolutely free tool for discovering God’s ways. And these days silence is so hard to come by! We’re always connected to something – radio, social media, the 24-hour news cycle…and we have become used to all the noise. This morning I drove into town without Waze, and for the first time in quite a while, just let myself arrive whenever the traffic conditions of my normal route allowed. I had also turned off the radio to really allow for silence. And it was almost eerie! With no constant feedback on my timing or location on the digital map and no occasional blips of “Hazard reported ahead!,” truth be told I felt sort of disconnected, and maybe even a little bit nervous!
For many of us, noise is way more comfortable than silence. In the midst of the pressure and time crunch of day-to-day life, how can we start to practice silence, in order to carve out time and space for God?
I think first we have to get ahold of the way we respond to pressure and demands of daily life, so that we can silence our hearts enough to hear Him. Inner silence and deep prayer is ultimately a gift from the Holy Spirit, but we have to fully engage with mind, body, heart and will to prepare our part of the conversation – or conversation will never happen. Let us take advantage of Lent to step back and examine our lives. How do we respond to pressures and demands, day by day?
Sticking with our “Waze” analogy, I think we can roughly categorize our responses to everyday stress into two types.
First general category: when under pressure, about half of us live life in over-drive. Our gut response to tasks and responsibilities – whether at work, in our families or homes – is to automatically press down on the gas pedal. The trouble is that we give it more gas before we even know where we are going! Any maybe God isn’t calling us to this or that function, or this or that commitment? Maybe His plan for our family looks different than where I’m darting off too? But rather than slowing down and listening to His voice whispering within our hearts and in the circumstances of life, we shift into high gear and take charge to a fault.
Second general category: the other half of us never seem to get into gear in the first place. We respond to life’s pressures and demands by just staying in “neutral,” and unconsciously resisting them altogether. The pressure seems so great that we simply coast through life slightly overwhelmed. And despite a few sporadic, frantic attempts to engage our engines, we settle for convincing ourselves that life in first or second gear is great. We’d actually be happy if someone else offered to drive!
The “Waze” of God
While both of these ways are very natural responses to pressure, neither “way” is God’s way for us, meaning that neither way expresses the glory of that life fully lived which God designed us for. And, oftentimes these natural responses to pressures sure do get in the way of living in close to God, if we let them! Whichever way you drive, so to speak, it’s important to “know thyself”, observe your “ways” life, and lay them at the Lord’s feet, so that together you can discover a new way of living.
So what is God’s way? We are called as Christians to live life from a natural AND supernatural reality! Not just purely natural, and not just purely supernatural either. As Fr. Joseph Kentenich put it, “Grace does not destroy nature, it elevates and perfects it:
“The true and genuine law of life is this: “Grace does not destroy nature, it elevates and perfects it.” This law enters deeply into the life of someone who has understood the art of living. If I am living under the influence of grace, this does not absolve me from the duty to strive for genuine and noble humanity. Holiness must be synonymous with genuine, spontaneous and ennobled humanity.”1
The art of living! Now there’s a way to live! Doesn’t something about that phrase call to our hearts, and awaken some deeper, something greater? It certainly sounds more rich
and full than all our “Waze” of rushing around! And again,
“Grace must form noble human beings. Our lives must become a work of art. Both the natural and the supernatural dimensions must be developed, but not in a one-sided way. Above all we must make use of the means of grace to form our lives.” 2
Let us take this mid-way point of Lent to examine our ways of living, and asking for the grace and strength we need, turn our waze towards Him, that we might die and rise with Him to live more fully in the joy of the Resurrection. I’ll leave you with a prayer to guide your way below.
Many blessings on your Lenten journey, my friend!
Prayer of Divine Providence
You know the way for me,
You the know the time,
into your hands I trustingly place mine.
Your plan is perfect, born of perfect love,
You know the way for me,
and that is enough.
(Prayer from Heavenwards, Prayerbook by Fr Joseph Kentenich. This prayer was a common German prayer).
- J. Kentenich. Free and Wholly Human. page 90
- ibid, page 91