guest post by Heather Holba
The scent of fresh laundry enveloped me as I stood in my bedroom, folding shirts and matching socks. My babies were napping and in the absence of their antics, the mundane act of folding and sorting clothes allowed my attention to shift from the task at hand. Without warning all the stresses in my life were displayed in stark relief against the backdrop of the perfect analogy for life at the time: the never ending clutter and chaos of laundry. The floodgates in my mind opened wide and I was overwhelmed, unable to bear the weight of these burdens any longer.
I remember falling to my knees, my head in my hands, fear and anxiety consuming me on every level. I had been trying to control things, but was drowning in the attempt, and on that sunny afternoon I finally reached my breaking point. In what was only a whisper I confessed to God that I simply couldn’t live like “this” anymore. I asked God to take away the feelings that were crushing me. I didn’t want to be in control anymore, and the truth was, I was never in control to begin with. I opened myself up completely to God knowing I was flawed, broken, and one hot mess. God responded. Suddenly I felt a warmth wrap around my shoulders and the word “Peace” permeated my mind. The fear and anxiety that had been eating away at me melted in the comfort of God’s embrace.
This profound experience in the midst of a mundane moment set me on my path toward finding my calling, and it wasn’t long after that I found it in the ministry of Spiritual Direction. My journey towards becoming a Spiritual Director introduced me to a variety of prayer forms, and I learned that I didn’t have to be in a valley full of shadows to feel God’s presence. I began to practice these new prayer forms, and I fell in love. These methods of prayer reached me on such a deeply personal level that I knew I was speaking with and to my Creator.
For me, the Christian practice of praying The Hours (four times a day) is a perfect fit. I grew up in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, where the Call to Prayer woke me up in the morning and lulled me to sleep at night, becoming the background music to my daily routine. Although I am not Muslim, something about that long ago experience ties into my present prayer life. There is a formality, a structure and a history to praying The Hours that I gravitate to, and it feeds my soul. In praying The Hours I find myself falling into a rhythm that is as comforting as it is divine.
My spiritual well being is centered on and around prayer. But it’s not just praying The Hours that call to me. I love Contemplative (Meditative) Prayer. I seek solace and renewal in the silence, and in that silence, I find God. It’s not always easy, and it’s never what I expect, but I have come to delight in the unexpectedness of God’s presence.
It is in the act of praying that I feel like I have come home. It is where I find my strength and my peace. On the days or weeks that I don’t “get to it,” or perhaps I “run out of time,” its absence is keenly felt. For the first time, the command to “pray without ceasing” has become a privilege, a blessing, and a necessity to my spiritual life.
We are meant to fall in love with prayer. It shouldn’t be an obligation, it shouldn’t be stressful or intimidating. Sometimes that means stepping outside our comfort zone and trying new methods of prayer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Much like searching for the other half of a pair of socks, we have to keep looking because that missing sock is somewhere. The trick is finding the form or forms of prayer that open your heart and soul to God. It should be a moment in time where we reach out to God, and feel God reaching back.
Of course there are times when I cannot concentrate and focus on the words in front of me as I pray The Hours. There are times when the silence of Contemplative Prayer is elusive, drowned out by my anxieties and fears. In these moments, when the messiness of life becomes overwhelming, I find myself on my knees once more, in awe and full of faith before a loving God. There are no graceful prayers or perfect silences, but encircled by mismatched socks and wrinkled shirts, I continue to seek God. Listening for the whisper of movement from the Holy Spirit. I don’t always hear or see it, but I have learned to keep listening and praying.
Join Heather this Fall in a deeper exploration of prayer, in her course, At the Well: Meeting Jesus in Prayer.
Heather Holba is a Certified Spiritual Director and an active member within the United Methodist Church. In addition to leading small group Bible studies on a regular basis, she has led classes on prayer and its many forms. She is passionate about working with individuals to create a strong spiritual life, while maintaining the responsibilities required of modern life. The importance of this (and the reality that it can be achieved) is something she has learned first hand as a wife and mother to two young children. She also recognizes the importance of working with other denominations and religions and is always excited to learn about new or old traditions that others hold sacred.
Photo credit: “Sockenzoo” by Elke Wetzig (Elya) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike.