Jan 03, 2024 by Colleen C Orchanian

When my father was looking for a sponsor in AA to help him stay sober, he found a man who was different from the others in the meetings. This man was joyful; he didn't reminisce about the good old days of drinking or wallow in self-pity for the consequences of his past. He was upbeat and encouraging and filled with joy. Dad wondered why and the answer was, of course, Jesus. This man had a deeply personal relationship with Jesus.

Isn't that what we all want? We might see someone who is zealous for the Lord and admire their faith, but we don't know how to get there. Sometimes we might even be afraid to go there. Today's message is a challenge to take a deep dive into your relationship with God. Wherever you are in that relationship, there is more. We want to love Him more, trust Him more, serve Him better, receive more of His spiritual gifts. We want the joy that was present in my dad's sponsor, the joy written about by St. Paul and St. John and St. Peter and all the saints.

One reason we may not have the kind of faith we desire is that we rush through life, through prayer, even through relationships. We try to be efficient with our time, but that's not the way to approach time with the Lord. We should linger with Him. Linger with thoughts about Him. Linger on Scripture. Linger in His presence. It's like lingering with a beautiful rainbow or brilliant sunset. We stop to enjoy it. I did that once when driving home from work. There was a double rainbow and I actually stopped the car to enjoy it. I could see it while driving, but I wanted to experience the rainbow without any distractions, like driving. So I stopped for a few minutes and looked. I lingered. I don't linger enough with God.

I have noticed in my prayer time that I sometimes have spiritual insights. I write them down in my prayer journal and that's where they stay. I think, I want to ponder that a little more. I'll come back to it later. And then I forget about it. It reminds me of the passage in Acts chapter 17 (16-34). Paul is talking to the Athenians about Jesus and the resurrection. At the end of the day, some of them said, We will hear you again about this. They heard the Good News and thought it was interesting, but many didn't go with Paul. It didn't transform their lives.

I'm like that. I have the insight. I know it's important and true. And I say I'll revisit it later, but life gets busy and I don't. I don't linger enough with the insights that can help me grow spiritually and lead to more of a transformation in my life. I tried to address this during Advent. Every day I chose a Scripture verse from the daily readings and wrote it on a card. My intention was to meditate on that verse throughout the day, to linger with the verse. I have to say that I didn't execute that idea as well as I could have. I wrote down the verse but didn't revisit it much through the day. I haven't given up on this idea, though, because I know it will bear fruit.

My resolution for the coming year is to live with a verse for a longer time, to choose a verse for a month – maybe longer. Here's how that might work.

The verse: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

I might begin by thinking about Mary and how willing she was to surrender to God's will. Staying with that idea, I might explore how difficult this may have been for her as she left for Egypt while her friends in Bethlehem mourned the murder of their sons by Herod. There are many other difficult times in her life when she surrendered to God's will. I could explore each of them separately. This might help me get to know Mary better, especially if I explore this idea for a week or more.

After thinking about Mary and what it meant for her to be the handmaid of the Lord, I would begin to apply the verse to me. How willing am I to be the handmaid of the Lord? How often do I surrender to God's will in my life? How easily do I let God lead me and my family? Where am I resistant and why? This could be a useful meditation for a week or two weeks or even a month or a year!

A third path to explore with this verse is how am I the handmaid of the Lord when it comes to my service to others? I have an apostolate – a way that I serve God by serving others. This podcast is part of my apostolate. My blog and books are as well. And there are retreats and small faith groups that I lead. I can explore each of these and how well I seek and follow God's will in each of them.

By taking one verse – or one spiritual idea – and lingering with it, I am going deeper. Actually, God is going deeper into my soul. I am allowing Him to speak into my soul and change my heart. I could ponder the verse for one day and have some insights, but it's superficial, like the seed scattered on rocky ground.

We all know people who go to church every Sunday but don't seem to have the fire of the Holy Spirit. There was a time I couldn't wait for Mass to end so I could get on with my day. I had done my duty. Now let's get on with life, Right? Today it's different for me. I want to linger with the Lord. Even so, I know I could linger even longer. I could linger even better. I have an insight today and look forward to tomorrow's new insight. Instead, I should sit with today's insight and dig deeply to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into that insight over time. That is my plan for the new year – to sit with ideas for a long time.

I have two obstacles to making this work:

The first is that I will likely hit a dry patch when meditating on the same idea for a week or a month. The enemy will tell me that I am done and can move on. Nothing new is coming. I have to be patient through the dry times, even accept them. Those are the times I may simply sit in silence with God. If I resolve to ponder a specific idea or verse for a month, I will keep that resolution, even when it seems fruitless.

The second obstacle I anticipate is the fear that I'll choose the wrong thing to ponder. I know that is actually ridiculous. How can a verse of Scripture be the wrong verse? God can speak through any verse. But maybe I fear that another verse would be better. I have to reject that fear because I know that, too, is from the enemy, who doesn't want me to go deep. He wants a superficial faith where I bounce from one idea to another, waiting for inspiration.

God has much more for each one of us. He has given us all the spiritual blessings in the heavens, according to Paul's letter to the Ephesians. He wants us to have more. He calls us to sit with Him, to linger with Him, to dive deeply into His Truth, so that we can rise to heights we cannot imagine. Scary? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely! Take the challenge and slow down with God.

Questions for Prayer:

  1. When do you rush through your time with God? Why?

  2. How might you slow down with God in the next year? What will you linger with so you can go deeper?