Four Practices that Help Me Find God in all Things
Happy Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola!
Convert, missionary, founder of the Society of Jesus (the order of priests commonly called the Jesuits), writer, and spiritual director — St. Ignatius was many things, and his gifts to the church and world were plentiful. I have a personal attachment to the saint, because beyond recognizing the impact he has had on the faithful at large, he has touched my life through the practices that he recorded in the Catholic classic now known as the Spiritual Exercises.
Of all of the prayers, meditations, and other mental exercises detailed in this book, one of my favorites is the idea that we can “find God in all things,” from the faces of strangers, to the process of cooking dinner, to our time spent pouring over spreadsheets in the office. This mindset not only enables me to make prayer an ongoing and continual part of my everyday life, but it also helps me feel joyful and at peace during even the most aggravating or mundane parts of daily life (at least some of the time!).
Here are four practices that help me find God in all things:
I start my day with prayer.
I have found that my ability to find God in all things throughout the day is heavily associated with whether or not I begin my day with prayer. I try my hardest to start my days by waking up earlier than the rest of my family, lighting a, reading the gospel of the day, and sitting in the presence of the Lord. After a few minutes of quiet, as I begin to hear the stirring of my family members or know that I need to start preparing breakfast, I ask Jesus to be with me throughout the day, and to open my eyes, ears and heart to seeing his face in the people I meet, hearing his voice in the activities of the day, and feeling his love and wisdom in everything I do. There are days when morning prayer doesn’t happen — the sleep rhythms of children are so unpredictable, am I right? — but when I manage to start my day in this way, I feel myself much more attuned to God and able to recognize God’s face in whatever the day holds.
I challenge myself to say “God is here, too” anytime I am frustrated.
It’s hardest for me to stay alert to the presence of God in the moments of the day that cause me aggravation. You know the ones: when the kitchen somehow becomes a disaster zone of toys and dirty cups almost immediately after I had cleaned up the breakfast mess; when I get disconnected from a phone call after sitting on hold for twenty-five minutes; when I spend the better part of a day making progress on a work task, only to find out around 4 p.m. that I had been doing it wrong and need to start over. These are the moments when I want to either cry or yell or throw up my hands and give up… but if I can bring myself to take a deep breath and say, “God is here, too” my perspective usually shifts. I remember that my problems are small problems. I remember that sacrifice unites me with countless saints through the ages and helps me to become a better person. And I remember that no matter how frustrated I am, I have God by my side to help me get through. But let’s be real: it’s hard to remember to take a deep breath in those moments of annoyance or despair. Something that helps prepare me to make this shift (instead of going down the “woe is me” trail, which I’ve traveled before) is wearing a piece of religious jewelry, something simple like or . Catching sight of the cross or the image of Mary (ever patient sufferer that our Mother was) is a visual reminder to stop in my tracks and say my mantra. And my mantra keeps me ever attuned to the presence of God in all things.
We have conversations as a family about where we saw God throughout the day.
Sometimes in the van as I drive the kids around after school, sometimes over dinner as we’re sitting around the crowded table, and sometimes as the last moment of the evening, when I kiss their foreheads goodnight, I like to ask my children — and share for myself — about where we saw God throughout the day. Maybe we felt the love of God through the smile of the lunch lady. Maybe we experienced God’s mercy when a worry that had been troubling us lifted. Maybe we felt God-given joy as we laughed about the baby’s silly faces and sounds. By sharing with one another, not only do I encourage my children (and myself) to reflect on the events of the day through a spiritual lens, but we get to see God through the eyes of one another.
And that, in and of itself, awakens my senses to the presence of God in my life. Let me tell you something: nothing makes me feel the movement of the spirit within me quite like hearing my eleven-year-old talk about how she heard God speaking through the kind voice of her teacher, or my six-year-old mention that she felt God’s care when her friend shared a chocolate chip cookie with her at lunchtime. Sharing about the presence of God brings to life the presence of God.
I end my day with prayer.
Even though I share with my family a highlight “God sighting” from the day, I like to take some time to reflect individually on the same question when I am alone. So after the kids have gone to bed, I pull out myand I make a list of how and where I felt God’s presence throughout the day: in the comfort of my morning coffee, in the worship music I listened to as I washed dishes, in the conversation that I had with an old friend on the phone. Journaling, for me, is like putting a magnifying glass up to my life experiences. It helps me see the everyday moments and conversations with more detail, and it helps me see that God is in them all. What’s more, this kind of reflection at the end of the day primes me to more actively notice God the next day, in the moment of the whatever is happening.
By engaging with these practices, I ready myself (and my family) to find God in all things. And, well, that just makes life sweeter. And, it pushes me further down the path to sanctification on which I hope I am always headed. Here’s to St. Ignatius of Loyola — on his feast day — for helping me on the journey!