The thought bubbles up – this God thing. Is it real? How do I figure this out?
Talk to God.
Right now. Say something like “God, I’m looking for you. Here I am. Please help me find you.” If you’re a real skeptic, abandon your objections for just a moment and allow yourself to acknowlege that you might not know everything about the universe.
Keep in mind that God is already active in your life. And he happily meets you wherever you are. Anywhere. You do not need be a saint, or a better person than you are. He is always looking for you, sending out subtle, constant invitations.
So how do you hear him? Sit quietly and listen. Pray. If you feel the urge to do something that will bring you closer to God, do it.
- Remind yourself that you are in God’s presence and ask for his help to pray.
- Think over the day and remember what you are grateful for. Thank God.
- Scan the entire day: remember things that made you happy, stressed, confused, more loving, more selfish, etc. Where was God’s present? Where did you feel him? Where did you turn away from him?
- Ask forgiveness from God for your wrongdoings. Consider reconciling with anyone you may have offended.
- Ask for the grace of God’s help tomorrow. Remember God loves you no matter what.
- Close with a prayer. Christians might like to say the Our Father (as St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended in his development of this approach).
Try this ‘examination of conscience’ every day for a few days. It is often easier to see God at work in your life after it happens rather than as it happens. You need to reflect on it.
Surprise yourself. Read the Bible.
Read whatever you want; choose wherever the page lands, or start at the beginning of a Gospel and read it like a novel. Reflect on it and listen to the persistent ideas that come to you from it.
(When a friend first advised me to do this, I thought, really? Isn’t reading scripture for square, dorky Bible thumpers? Or for those angry people who use quotes to condemn others? Or for televangelists who make money from preaching so they can buy big houses and have sordid affairs? You can see where my mind was…)
Turns out the Bible gets a bad rap. The wisdom of that guy, Jesus, who lived such a loooonng time ago is still incredibly relevant, even thousands of years later. How’d that happen, when people were writing on parchment with quill pens?
If you get motivated, take a Scripture study class – the history is fascinating and can really deepen your faith and understanding.
Do something kind and unselfish.
Note how you feel and how it affects others. Live, for a while, as if God does exist, as if his love matters. See how it opens your heart and your mind.
Know that faith and reason go together. Keep learning.
Use your brain. You were made in God’s image – you know that you yourself are more than just a random life-form here on an ant-like worker colony. Emotion, relationships, love all point to something more about life that we yearn to understand and participate in. Be open to the knowledge that yes, there is more to life.
But don’t be gullible. You should be able to ask questions of religion and get reasonable answers from whoever is advising you. God seeks first and foremost to love each and every one of us on earth. If it doesn’t feel that way, redirect yourself.
There are lots of resources out there to learn more about God, faith and religion. A great place to start is a book called The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything by Fr. Jim Martin. It’s an incredibly honest perspective from a business school grad turned priest, as well as funny, insightful, and applicable to any person of any religion.
If you are a ‘lapsed’ or alienated Catholic, I get it. But now’s a good time to look again. There are very approachable priests and faith centers out there, offering open discussions about the state of the church and everything else.
Continue to Pray. Often.
Finding and knowing God is not a one-off scavenger hunt event. We are like little children who must grow through learning. You can pray anytime — while driving, running, showering, washing dishes, walking the dog. Faith is like other skills – it must be nurtured and practiced and honed one day at a time.