During our time of social distancing, I’ve been studying the Book of Acts. In chapter nine, Paul is blinded on the road to Damascus for three days. And in this darkness, Paul received a new vision. No longer would he see things with the same fiery persecution. Now he would see with the eyes of Christ, for he was forced into stillness and into introspection. Then the scales fell from Paul’s eyes, and he could see what he had failed to see before.
During my time in social distancing, I’ve prayed for the scales to fall from my eyes, so I can overcome my own blind spots. Before the virus hit, I had a health scare with my heart. Now I must take care of my heart in ways I hadn’t been aware of before. Then the coronavirus hit, and it has been like a double whammy.
But now the scales are falling off, and I’m getting my sight back. I’m seeing things I haven’t seen before about myself. All the distractions I once used to manage my life—by running here and there—have been removed. I’ve been forced into stillness and into an incredible time of self-examination. And in this silence, I’ve been getting my sight back. The scales are falling from my eyes. I’m coming out of denial.
The beginning of transformation always begins with self-awareness. This is why we call denial, the ultimate enabler, because it causes us to make selfish and dysfunctional responses, not honest ones. And my time of social distancing has forced me into honest introspection.
My soul suffered at first in this silence. I wanted to run, to get busy, to meet with friends and staff. But silence told me to sit at its feet. And it has been here that I’ve discovered the strength of vulnerability.
Thomas Keating once wrote, “… whenever a certain amount of emotional pain is evacuated, interior space opens up within us. We are closer to the spiritual level of our being, closer to our true self, and closer to the Source of our being, which lies in our inmost center but is buried under the emotional debris of a lifetime. We are closer to God because through the process of unloading we have evacuated some of the material that was hiding the divine presence.”[i]
And you see, for me, I was hiding the divine presence beneath the activity and busyness of life. But once I unloaded all the running around, the stillness evacuated some of the material that was hiding the divine presence within me. I could suddenly hear the divine speaking peace and joy in my soul. This is how my scales fell away.
So, use this time to open some interior space by self-examination. “… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). What is hindering you from opening pathways to the divine presence?
For me it was unloading endless activity, but for you it may differ. Maybe it’s an addiction you’ve turned to in these dark times. But it hasn’t worked. The world just seems heavier on your shoulders. If this is the case, then you are only trying to silence the voices, which makes self-examination difficult. But transformation begins with self-examination.
So let me give you some action steps to help you unload and create inner space for the divine presence.
- Be still and know that he is God.
Knowing that God is in control, and we are out of control, is the first step toward creating inner freedom. We allow peace to enter our soul when we spend time meditating on who is in control. So thank God for being God. Give him your fear of the future. For he will never leave you or forsake you.
- Unload thoughts that lead to despair.
Start by affirming your faith. Tell yourself that all is well with your soul. Talk to your soul the way David did. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
- Acknowledge that the divine presence lives in you.
Richard Rohr writes, “This realization that Someone is living in us and through us is exactly how we plug into a much larger mind and heart beyond our own.”[ii]
This is how the scales fall off. We realize the divine presence within. We plug into a much larger mind and heart.
So use this time to create some inner space for the divine presence to speak above the voices of fear and panic. Then the scales will fall off, and you will emerge as the Apostle Paul did—willing to be led by the divine presence into peace and security. For Christ has us by the hand. And he will lead us beside still waters. He will refresh our souls, as we walk through the valley of death.
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[i] Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God, (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2019), 49.
[ii] Richard Rohr, Eager to Love, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Franciscan Media, 2014), 69.