When it seems that God is distant, it is vital to remember his gaze. When Mary of Bethany hid in the darkness of her house, she knew that Christ was outside. She may have doubted in those moments, she may not have understood what he was doing, but she knew that his gaze was on her—and he came to her. He knew her longing and her distress.
Ultimately, he did not disappoint her.
Prayer is practicing the knowledge of God’s eyes upon you. He is the only one who should act as your mirror. Prayer should be God’s gaze drenching you, as the rain drenches the grasses in the garden, vivifying their greens and making them stand taller. God’s gaze awakens you to everything you were created to be. It enables you to leave the darkness and to walk to him.
It seems to me that as people pray less, the need to be gazed at becomes more. People photograph every frame of their life: the fact of it happening and resounding in their own heart is not enough.
As soon as something happens—an engagement, a holiday—we tell it to the audience of social media. We package it. It is like being given a flower and pressing it instantly into immortality so the juice and scent are gone. Perhaps people don’t know that this is also about searching for God, about being seen in a world that denies his eyes.
The messages we post are often blanket, indiscriminate. Social media has removed the niceties of how we frame a message for different people: if we’re announcing a pregnancy it should be done gently to the woman who wants children but has none, more enthusiastically to grandparents. But how would it feel to have an experience and not to post it, not to share it? How would it feel to fall in love, accept a proposal of marriage, and not tell anyone—at least at first?
I think people are afraid. They think that experiences are not real unless they have an audience. They are scared of the overwhelming silence in the cathedral of their hearts.
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Lk 2:19)
What happens to us needs to mature in silence. It needs to take root in us and therefore become unshakable. It needs to find its place in the Reality of God. Because only then, in the illuminating context of the Creator’s gaze, can we understand what something is and how it relates to everything else.
We need to understand that we have worth without an audience; that we should not measure ourselves by the world’s criteria: money, numbers, and what plays well to the crowd. When you are waiting for God to come to you (life is waiting for God, though more accurately he is waiting for you), always know that his gaze is your spiritual oxygen, your context, and truth.
(Excerpted from Annunciation: A Call to Faith In A Broken World [Ignatius Press 2019] by Sally Read.)
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