Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re celebrating 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore ways of Experiencing God in the Ordinary. The inspiration for our theme is the new book by William A. Barry, SJ.
I am playing with God. I don’t mean that in a frivolous, joking way, but rather, a childish, playful way, in that I am delighting in God’s creation, in the natural beauty that surrounds me, right where I am. I have risen early to walk up to a nearby beach. Thankfully during our time of COVID-19 isolation, we’ve been allowed to leave our homes for the purpose of exercise.
As I walk along the shoreline and sunrise unfolds, my eyes delight in the changing light—from the dark blue and grey hues of dawn to shades of pink, purple, and gold. My ears delight in the sounds of the crashing waves onto the shoreline before me and onto the rocks, both near and far. The birds are flitting about in the nearby bushland. I hear their birdsong. During this time of COVID, walks in nature have become so much more precious to me. I’ve been trying to pay closer attention to the birds that nestle and fly by in my surrounds. I’ve been trying to discern the different bird calls and the variety of species, taking the time to appreciate them more deeply and to give thanks for their colorful and cheerful presence.
I can feel the cool breeze on my skin. In Australia we’re in the winter months. It’s particularly cold by the sea on the east coast. And yet, the day promises to warm up with its crisp blue outlook, the earlier clouds having gently dissipated. I take a deep breath, place my hand on my heart and say out loud:
Thank you, God, for this amazing, beautiful and glorious world. Thank you that I can be here, appreciating the natural world around me, during this COVID time, when I know many are suffering around the world, feeling worried and confused, grieving lost loved ones, and perhaps isolated in their homes without any, or easy, access to nature.
I know you’re here with me, God; I feel your presence deep within my heart. I feel your presence in my body as each of my senses delight in the beautiful nature that surrounds me in this moment.
Indeed, this is a feast for the senses, a playground for my senses.
As I look out over the ocean and across the vast horizon, I contemplate the majesty and beauty of nature, the mystery of life, and the Greater Mystery of God. I feel a deep sense of love and gratitude in this moment. God is with me. God is with me here and now and always.
My heart expands, and my arms follow this feeling, stretching out wide. Again, I take some deep breaths, understanding that each day of life is a blessing. A gift. I express words of blessing for all those who are suffering, that they may find peace and comfort in God’s loving presence in their hearts. And then I sense God whispering into my heart: “Peace be with you.”
Breathing deeply again, I allow those words to sit deeply within my body and soul. “Peace be with you.” I know having God’s presence of peace within me is not something to take for granted. And so I give thanks. Then I am suddenly filled with energy and start jogging along the shoreline. It’s a playful sprint that reminds me of when children get excited and suddenly sprint into their fathers’ arms. My heart is alive with joy. I have enjoyed a special moment with my loving God, who reminds me every day in the beauty of nature around me, that I am loved, and that taking delight in this natural beauty delights God too. We can delight in this beauty together. And for this, I give thanks.
Find Your Moments of Joy and Beauty
During this time of COVID, it can be difficult to find moments of joy and beauty. Find those places where you can delight in the natural world, whether it be in your garden, a local park, or bushland, or perhaps you can just look up to the sky from a window. Observe the shifting light, particularly at sunrise and sunset when the hues can often change within minutes. Take time to observe the birdsong you can hear. And in those quiet moments, if only for a minute, try placing your hand on your heart, taking some deep breaths and saying a prayer. God is always with us and delights in hearing from us!
Photo by Fiona Basile, courtesy of www.fionabasile.com.
Use the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius to share the ways you’ve experienced God in the ordinary.