My husband and I are not morning people. We wander into the kitchen and barely speak. It is all I can do to make the coffee and not forget what I am doing. We joke about this and are grateful that neither of us “do mornings.”
This is a starting point for thinking about being awake to the presence of God. The scripture that forms the basis for this reflection is Genesis 28: 10-17. It is the familiar story relating Jacob’s dream about a ladder joining earth to heaven with angels going up and down upon it.
In that dream God makes several promises to Jacob. And God concludes by saying, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob wakes up from his dream and says, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I, I did not know it.”
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner has written a book about this Biblical account and some of his insights have added to my understanding of what it means to be spiritually awake. It has a lot to do with paying attention. In this account God is near, not off someplace in the heavens. That is the significance of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven. God is everywhere and in every moment.
It is our inattention that keeps us from knowing God better. A quote from this book is worth considering. “The beginning of knowing about God, in other words, is simply paying attention, being fully present where you are, or as Rashi suggests, waking up. We realize, like Jacob, that we have been asleep. We do not see what is happening all around us.” God is the source of everything and is present in every place.
Interestingly, the Jewish translation for the word “place” is God. So when Jacob says “surely the Lord is in this place,” it is a way of saying that wherever we are, there is the potential for an encounter with God. To apply this to our current life situation, there is a beautiful promise: we can find God wherever we are and in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. For me, the reason I do not always “find God” is because I do not make time to look and listen. Scripture tells us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
It is not easy to “be still.” Most of us are on the go all day long and are connected to cell phones, iPads and other technology. It takes some doing to sit quietly, clear one’s mind and focus on God. The other aspect of that is inviting God to become present. Having worked at meditation, it really does connect a person to God in a deeper level. One can gain insights and often come away from the experience feeling rested and peaceful.
A second way to become more connected to God is through prayer. Unfortunately, prayer, for me, is often like driving through the fast food window at McDonald’s. I say short little prayers and hope that suffices. Prayer like that is important; it is better than not praying at all. But the slower prayers, punctuated by silence, are necessary. My time and God’s time are not the same. It takes the slower pace of praying to “wake up” to God.
Finding God takes time, silence and patience. It is a much different kind of wakefulness. Yet it is the very thing that renews us. It helps us to know that “surely God is in this place.”