This quote comes from a book titled “Invitation to Love” by Thomas Keating:
Whatever we experience of God, however exalted, is only a radiance of his presence. No experience in this life can be God as he is in himself because God infinitely transcends all categories and experiences. In the transforming union, the energy of faith, trust, and love is constantly being beamed to us whether we experience it or not. The body has been prepared and stabilized by the practice of virtue and the purification of sense and spirit so that it can receive the divine communications uninterruptedly. Divine love can now manifest itself in all our activities, even the most ordinary. The same all-pervasive union is present while walking down the street or brushing one’s teeth as in periods of contemplative prayer. External and internal realities are unified because all are equally rooted in God and manifest God. The entire organism is sensitized to all the ways in which the divine presence manifests itself, without mistaking any one of them as the ultimate expression of God’s love.
I’d like to reflect on this paragraph with you today, by connecting it to my recent running experience. (I know, I know, I talk about running a lot these days. But it’s a big part of what I’m doing in my spare time! I spend a lot of time thinking about it.)
On my runs, I have been listening to the wisdom and encouragement of several coaches who talk through the various workouts in my training program. One theme that keeps coming up in many of the workouts, regardless of who the coach is that particular day, is the importance of being fully present, fully aware, fully “there” in the moment. It’s easy to dwell on things that happened earlier, or things that I’ll have to do after the run. It’s easy to think about how much farther I have to run before I can stop for the day. The challenge is always to be completely present in this moment, right now.
Thomas Keating writes that God’s “divine love can now manifest itself in all our activities, even the most ordinary.” Even while I’m running. Even while I’m passing the next mile marker or crossing the next road. Even while I’m admiring the buds on the trees or the frogs in the creek beds. Even while I’m shaking the tension out of my arms or focusing on controlling my breathing. God’s love, now, can show up in every single activity of every single day.
The challenge is to be completely present in this moment, to learn to be aware of God’s love which sustains us and inspires us and consoles us every moment of our lives.
A second way this paragraph from Thomas Keating connects to my running life is through an injury I sustained last week. My left Achilles tendon started acting up on me, and that made it painful to run. I was a bit away from home when I decided that I had to stop running and just walk the rest of the way home.
Now, I’ve dealt with a few leg injuries over the past few years. And in the past, when I’ve been sidelined by a pulled hamstring or a twisted knee, I have been really discouraged and frustrated. Doesn’t my body know that I have training to do? Doesn’t it realize that this pain thing is silly, and it should just straighten up so we can get back out there again?
But this time, when my left Achilles started aching and I had to stop running, I wasn’t frustrated or bothered. I decided to accept this situation, to welcome the next few days of rest, and to trust that eventually I’d be back on the road again.
I count this as one way that God’s presence is working in my life. Thomas Keating writes, “the entire organism [my entire self] is sensitized to all the ways in which the divine presence manifests itself.” Maybe, just maybe, my patience with myself is really God’s patience at work within me. Maybe this situation is God’s reminder to me that there are lots of people with chronic pain or severe injuries, people who don’t say “eventually I’ll be back on the road again” – so this is a call for me to learn humility and to practice solidarity with those who suffer. Maybe this injury is a chance for me to recognize God’s presence in the midst of the struggle – not to ask “where are you, God?” but to acknowledge that God is experiencing this injury with me and will walk (if not run) with me through it.