Listening for the Voice of Love
by Brennan Manning
MANY CHRISTIANS NEVER have grabbed aholt of God. They do not know, really know, that God dearly and passionately loves them. Many accept it theoretically; others in a shadowy sort of way. While their belief system is invulnerable, their faith in God's love for them is remote and abstract. They would be hard-pressed to say that the essence of their faith-commitment is a love affair between God and themselves. Not just a simple love affair but a furious love affair.
How do we grab aholt of God? How do we overcome our sadness and isolation? How do we develop the courage and generosity to treasure the signature of Jesus on the page of our lives? How, how, how? The answer comes irresistibly and unmistakably: prayer.
"Seek first the kingdom of God." This requires taking time out from family, friends, career, ministry, even "doing good," to enter into the great silence of God. Alone in that silence, the noise within will subside and the Voice of Love will be heard. Without such silence we will drown in the inner cacophony of dialogues, encounters, meetings, discussion and conferences where there is much speaking and little listening.
A certain existential panic can overtake us when we first face the stillness, but if we can find the courage to embrace it, we enter into the peace that is beyond all understanding. On the other hand, if we cannot recognize the value of simply being alone with God, as the Beloved, without doing anything, we gouge the heart out of Christianity. Beliefs become more important than faith and even small barriers create insurmountable obstacles among Christians.
Contemplative prayer is an all-out onslaught on egoism, isolation, and melancholy. Forgetting about oneself seems simple, yet it demands nothing less than the crucifixion of the ego. The renunciation of self-consciousness in order to acquire Christ-consciousness comes at great cost -- losing your life to find your life. But it brings the great assurance that the signature of Jesus [the Cross] is written even on the pages of our prayer lives.
Taken from chapter 11 of The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1988).