As I consider the variety of ways that one may encounter God in Creation, in community, and in contemplation, I am tempted to categorize these ways of encounter into separate and distinct practices. That is, I am tempted to see gardening as a way of encountering God in Creation and silence as a way of encountering God in contemplation. However, as we continue to introduce spiritual practices in this Wednesday blog, I am reminded of a simple, common way of encounter that may at various times provide opportunities for encountering God in all three ways.
Simple and common actions become spiritual practices when we enter into them with expectation of encountering God and with the intention of noticing God when we do encounter Him. In the rush of our daily lives, we too often neither expect, notice, or even appreciate our encounters with God.
The simple, common act of walking becomes a spiritual practice when we choose to expect, notice, and appreciate our encounter with God. The very act of walking slows our pace so that we are able to notice and observe our surroundings in a different way than when we are in a car. When walking, our eyes see, our skin feels, our ears hear, and our noses smell the world around in a way that we do not when we move about by other means.
As we walk outside, we are surrounded by God’s Creation. Too often, I allow other concerns and worries to interfere with my awareness of His presence. One way to become aware of the glory of Creation is simply to notice what is already there. In beginning a walk as a spiritual practice, the first step is to intentionally notice. What sounds do I hear? What colors do I see? What fragrances do I smell? How does the sun or the breeze feel on my skin?
If I walk alone, this very noticing becomes a way of contemplation, of setting aside the busyness of life and opening myself to encounter with God. Soon a conversation with God ensues and perhaps even the contented quietness of walking together.
If I walk in the company of others, this noticing becomes a topic of conversation, of shared experience and shared memories. It is amazing how many stories are told along a walk with friends new and old. When walking with our daughter, this noticing becomes a game, “What purple things do you see? How many birds do you hear?” Not all spiritual practices have to be solemn. We are invited also to rejoice in the Lord.
In your week, is there a time that you could set aside a walk, a walk with expectation and intention to encounter God in Creation, either alone or in community?