Lindsey Weishar: Preparing room to hear His voice during transitions of August
My Vocation is Love / By Lindsey Weishar
For many, especially those in school or living with someone in school, August is a month of transitions. In this last month of scorching summer temperatures (hopefully!), there’s a freshness, an orientation toward the new — new school supplies, new routine, new faces in one’s classes.
August may also be a perfect month for personal renewal. Transitions offer the opportunity to begin or renew habits that allow God’s voice more room in our lives.
You may be familiar with the idea of taking a word for the year. This word, discerned in prayer, serves as a guide in your prayer life for the year ahead. I find that this word calls me to attentiveness– when I hear my word discussed during homilies, in spiritual reading, or in the course of conversation, I more deeply attune to the message.
This year my word is actually a phrase: “Prepare Him room.” Inspired by the line from the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World” — “Let every heart prepare Him room” — I’ve been taking stock of places in my being and external life that are reminiscent of overstuffed suitcases.
Sometimes, in the midst of the many insecurities of our lives (COVID, inflation, war, and political and personal strife), I grasp at security by metaphorically filling my arms with more than I can carry. And no surprise, this carrying of many things not only doesn’t fill that desire for security, it also leaves me with little room for the one voice that matters.
“WHAT ARE OUR HANDS TOO FULL OF?”
This reflection took shape after hearing an amazing talk by Abiding Together podcast co-host Heather Khym at the 2022 GIVEN Forum. In Heather’s keynote, titled, “Receive the Gift that You Are,” she reflects on what it means to receive oneself as a gift: “I was thinking about that quote from Saint Augustine where he says God is always trying to give good things to us but our hands are often too full to receive them. I was like, hmm, OK, so what are our hands too full of?” She goes on to say that we’re too full of other voices: “It’s like I’m gonna turn on the news or I’m gonna flip through my feed and I’m gonna listen to what everybody else is saying but the voice of the Father which should be the primary voice, we know . . . that it’s really hard to have that be the primary voice.”
Heather makes clear that it’s easy to listen to the voice of the Enemy, who speaks lies that seem rather true (“I’m not loveable,” “I’m not enough,” “I’m not safe”). In a world that constantly bombards us with the same message — as any news source or social media feed almost immediately makes clear — how do we prepare room for the voice of the Father? Both in this talk and her recent book, “Abide,” Heather suggests we arm ourselves with God’s words: “begin to memorize key Scriptures that speak to the themes where we need the truth of God to break the power of lies” (“Abide” 88).
It wasn’t until about a week ago that I really reflected on the power of words, especially those spoken in the context of the Mass. As I watched the priest whisper his private prayers at the altar, I thought of the protective covering words can provide. Though it’s often easier to discern the power of unkind words spoken over me or others, Heather’s talk reminds me that Jesus’s very name has power. Quoting the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” 2666 — “His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him” — she hits home that the places we encounter God’s word (like during Mass and in Scripture) cover us in the language of our Lord.
When it comes to approaching God with empty hands and open arms — receptivity — St. Therese puts it this way: “I have frequently noticed that Jesus doesn’t want me to lay up provisions; He nourishes me at each moment with a totally new food; I find it within me without knowing how it is there.” We have only to prepare him room.
I invite you, dear reader, to make the start of this new school year a time of refreshment, of refocusing the ears of your heart on Christ’s voice. Consider a retreat (like the virtual, self-paced Pray More Novenas Healing Retreat that starts Aug. 17) or taking a word or Scripture verse for this new school year. Let God’s word sink deeply into you, let it clothe you, and, ultimately, let it change you.
LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and native of Champaign who has a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is executive assistant to the president at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.