For the first part of my life, when I sat on a beach, I was only aware of the surface of the ocean. I was mesmerized by the waves, the varying heights, and the way they crashed on the sand. I remember thinking how vast the ocean looked and not being able to imagine how it stretched between continents. I never thought about what lay beneath.
I was an adult when I first went snorkeling. By then, I knew there was an abundance of life in the ocean. I had seen photos and movies but these did not prepare me for witnessing countless multicolored fish right in front of me. I was shocked, just below the surface there was a whole other world.
I had the same experience with my spiritual life. I only engaged with the surface. I went to catechism, I memorized the answers I needed for confirmation, and I rarely went to church. My family was busy on the weekends skiing and hiking. We made the major holidays but it was more of a cultural experience than a spiritual one. I was more concerned with my Easter dress.
I discovered the beautiful world underneath the surface when I gave birth to my first child. Everything changed for me after that. I took nothing for granted, I felt a keen sense of gratitude for the child that I had been unable to conceive for years. I realized that there was something more below the surface of everyday life. It felt like energy from the Holy Spirit prompting me to pray. My gratitude for the new child I was holding poured out to God. I kept saying “Thank you, God”.
Prayer changes everything. When we pray, our awareness becomes focused on the prayer and we see things differently. We become aware of our internal spiritual life and we can connect to it. We can connect to the love and mercy of God and become aware of where God’s grace is happening in our lives. This connection makes all things new.
When I went to tell my priest about my discovery of an internal spiritual life, he gave me a book by Henri Nouwen called “Making All Things New.” I read this book once a year. It reminds me of the time when I discovered prayer and my relationship with God deepened.
I talk about prayer a lot. The question I get asked the most is “How should I pray? What is the right way to pray.” There is no right way to pray. People have told me that when they hear me pray, I’m very direct and I don’t use many words. This is true. Sometimes the pray is simply “Help” or “thank you.”
There is much life below the surface, we just need to look.