11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
— Book of Kings 19:11-13
I always enjoy reading this bible passage from the Book of Kings. Unlike other passages in the Old Testament, God here is depicted in a much simpler, calming manner – a whisper. Talking to God does not need some dramatic event to occur such as a strong wind, earthquake or fire. I believe these small, calming moments is when we can find God’s presence the most.
With my year as a fellow at Amate House coming to a close, I have had countless memories and experiences while working at Catholic Charities St. Sabina, being with community and wandering around the windy city. I have also taken a great deal of time trying to see where I have felt God’s presence in these experiences as this has been a major faith-development year for me.
One thing I began to notice is instances that stick out were not at my holiday giveaway events, large community presentations, the anti-racism training or other big picture experiences. The instances where I remember feeling God’s presence the most were in the very simple, quiet and personalized memories. Some were memories I encountered with a client, some with a community fellow and any other instance that I look back on and feel a spark of joy in my heart. Here are some moments I have had below,
- When I was sick and lost my voice and a volunteer at my worksite who I don’t know well gave me cough drops.
- Bonding with clients with a birthday around the same time as me (early-April #aries).
- The joy of a client, telling my coworkers they got the job they applied for.
- The small conversations I share with clients over common interests and catching up on what’s happening in their lives.
- When my one housemate checked in on me when I wasn’t feeling in a good place in the community.
- Bonding over a common interest in Marvel movies with one of the other fellows.
- Emailing back and forth funny memes and inspirational quotes with a fellow working at one of the other Catholic Charities locations.
- The support, love and encouragement my parents and family have given me throughout this year.
- The support, care and encouragement from my friends back home.
- Walking through the city of Chicago which I love (even in the cold).
When thinking of a year of service, I think it is very easy to think of the larger events as the more fond memories you will look back on. For me, it is these simple moments that I will remember the most and I feel God has been speaking to me. They are small, like the whisper of God to Elijah.
I have received a lot of help to recognize these moments throughout my year. By luck this winter, Matthew Kelly who is an acclaimed author and motivational speaker helping young Catholics connect better with their faith, released his new book The Biggest lie in the History of Christianity. This easy read focuses on how society has told us we cannot be holy as the disciples of Jesus were. Kelly explains this is a lie and we are capable of achieving this goal everyday with holy moments. Here are some examples of holy moments,
- Begin or end each day with a prayer of gratitude.
- Go out and do something for somebody you care about that you would rather not do.
- Control your temper, even if you feel justified in losing it.
- Offer the least enjoyable task of your day to God.
- Give whomever is in front of you your full attention.
- Stay calm in the midst of a crisis.
- Trust in God’s plan for you and your life.
Seeing these examples, I soon realized the small experiences I mentioned before were proof of giving and receiving holy moments that helped me feel God’s presence this year. These moments help show how simple it is for somebody to really accept, receive and give God’s love as Christians should.
God is always open to show love to all of us unconditionally and knows every detail in our lives, every skill and every imperfection. Even when we make mistakes, and as humans we certainly do, God will never turn away from us. As Father Greg Boyle from Homeboy Industries says, “God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.” That is true 24/7 and God will always listen with full attention. You should never be afraid of the Lord like fear of a strong wind, earthquake or fire. God is so much more and always wants to build a personal relationship with you. So for all those reading this who want to grow a deeper relationship with God, just like Elijah on the mountain, “What are you doing here?”