To be human is to be in relationship. The powerful sense of shalom, the well-being and wholeness that we experience grows out of an appreciation of our connectedness and interconnectedness with our creator, our family and neighbors; with ourselves; and with the world we call home. The shalom of god takes root and grows in one human heart at a time, and yet is connected and dependent on those relationships one to another. Shalom may be peaceful, but it is anything but passive. We can actively seek it, grasp it, nurture it, value it, and help it grow. Incredibly, because of our free will, the Shalom of God is in each of our hands to plant, to cultivate, and to treasure.
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The Shalom of God takes root in each of us as the center of a complex network of interconnected relationships. One of the most important relationships to get right is the one that each of us has as an individual before God. God intended each of us to be here. Make no mistake, if God did not want any one of us to be here we would not have been created. God worked in marvelous love, from the beginning of the world to bring us into being, despite any circumstances to the contrary. Even God's own son Jesus was conceived out of wedlock to a young girl, born into poverty, and immediately goes into exile in a foreign country.
God's love brought us into being, with the help and love of our parents. We may feel far from perfect and yet God loves us all the more and desires to be in a unique relationship with each of us. Just as God walked in the garden with our first parents Eve and Adam, God journeys with each of us today. God is constantly adapting to the human family over the years, just as parents adapt to their children as they grow up. So, now in addition to walking with each of us God is helping us paddle our double kayak.
A double kayak has two positions, one for God and one for us. While both paddlers help move the kayak forward only the aft cockpit controls the direction of travel via the foot pedals attached to the rudder. Out of great deference to our free will we get to choose in which position we will sit. When we end up in the driver's seat our God is so amazing and loves each of us so much that even if we might be headed in the wrong direction God helps us paddle against those strong currents. I have often mistakenly thought that God wanted me in the driver's seat, and I have felt the support of the presence of God with me and yet I think it is best to move into the other seat and let God guide the direction of my life. The journey is always smoother when following God's will.
It has been on those occasions, often only out of desperation, that I have yielded control over to God; when I have done this, what looked like a terribly impossible journey became a great and joyful adventure. When God is controlling the foot pedals the violent storms that threaten to sink our little kayak become calm and a path can be found through the rocks to the safety of the shore. At moments of relief like this I often wonder why I don't get out of the driver's seat more often. Yet it is hard to allow God to drive when I am in the front of the kayak and the waves are splashing me in the face. It takes a lot of trust and faith that God has in mind what is best for me along life's journey.
There are many things we can do to improve our relationship with God and build that trust. First on my list is spending time in conversation with God-in prayer. Prayer can take many forms, some of my favorites are: the focused silence of Centering Prayer, praying with Scripture, the awe inspiring experience of being out in nature, and joining in the great Liturgy of Word and Eucharist with a community on Sunday. My relationship with God is at its very best when I am spending enough time in these different types of prayer. I have come to realize that it is when I seem to be too rushed to pray that I need to pause and say a quick prayer and deepen that connection with God. Maybe I will be inspired to let God drive for a little while.
If God is not driving, you're in the wrong seat, move forward.
Friar Thomas J. Weise is the cathedral rector at the Cathedral of the Nativity.