During my summer off from teaching, one might think it would be easier for me to make time for God, yet I found myself either working on my writing or planning for the new school year. One afternoon I sat down with a cocktail and decided to devote some solid time to working on a project for my business. A few minutes in, the doorbell rang. I ignored it. It rang again.
Frustrated, I peeked downstairs and saw a homeless woman at the door who I knew had come by before. As I peered over the railing, she saw me. I reluctantly went down, opened the door, and greeted her kindly. For the next ten minutes she poured out her story and struggle to me. I asked her questions about what her immediate goal was, which was to get a bus ticket to a nearby city where she had some friends who could help her. During my time with her, I thought about my cocktail that was getting warm and my unfinished work. What did that all matter when this woman just wanted some water and someone to listen?
The next Sunday at Mass I heard the reading about Abraham encountering three strangers near his tent and quickly and joyously offering them food and hospitality. He even calls himself their “servant”—to strangers! Author Alice Camille reflects on this unexpected moment in Living with Christ:
He probably wasn’t praying or looking for divine direction or even thinking holy thoughts at all. …Yet in that very domestic, private, and unassuming hour, he had a celestial encounter with three persons described by most commentators as angels. Abraham wasn’t looking for God. But God was looking for him.
What felt like an intrusion in my planned afternoon was an encounter with God through the visit of a woman who just needed someone to listen to her. I had gotten caught up with my own agenda and had been ignoring God, yet God burst into my afternoon unannounced. This is so Ignatian. Our encounters with God are not always in church or an intentional time of prayer. They can happen anywhere and at any time. God sometimes intrusively rings our doorbell, forcing us out of our own self-absorption and into a harsh reminder that God is not going anywhere. We need not be looking for the divine in order for it to show up. More often than not, it’s God who takes the initiative in the relationship. We’re simply called to answer the door and engage.