A few days ago, I was browsing through my books looking for something to read while I was pedaling away on my stationary bike.
I came across a slim volume by Robert Wicks called Riding the Dragon. The book is an effort by the author to assist those in helping professions to remain as free as possible in their own spirits — that is, to remain healthy and better able to serve the needs of the other. Wicks also factors into his writing the complex and often frantic pace of modern life.
I am grateful to have the book. I found that it spoke to much of my own experience and that it offered in clear, direct language some practical suggestions for dealing with the pressures and strains of everyday life.
Although Wicks is a clinician and teaches and, although he writes for people engaged in helping professions, I thought as I read how beneficial the book might be to several people I have met lately.
I refer to mature and accomplished people who in one way or another communicate that they are hurried or tense or missing out on what life should really be all about. They have much. They have achieved a great deal. But they are restless: searching, wanting more.
Such conversations never fail to send me back to my boyhood and the Augustinian fathers who staffed our parish. They loved to remind us that their patron, St. Augustine, insisted that our hearts were restless and would remain restless until they rested in God.
That particular theme has remained with me through the years and has been of considerable personal help in moments when I am anxious or want to flee the moment or fear the future. Remembering what St. Augustine said doesn’t eradicate the restlessness, but it does provide a context, a place in which to deal with it. And that allows me to deal with the unease rather than to be driven by it. More, it allows me to remember that I am not alone in dealing with it. God is with me in the power of the Spirit alive in the support of friends, the prayer of the church, in all that is real, and true and loving.
Wicks, as I indicated, offers many practical suggestions. But if I have read him correctly, his central, most important encouragement is for some quiet, prayerful meditation every day. It need not be for a long time. Even a few minutes would suffice to begin a process which allows us to come in touch with our inner beings, those places deep in our hearts where God dwells and where God often speaks to us. That discipline of a few moments each day, when begun, often lengthens. And, gradually that person hears the quiet voice rather than only the noise of life.
To the individuals who have spoken to me about this restlessness, I have offered encouragement similar to that offered by Wicks. He made me mindful of how very easy it is to be shaken by the pressure and the noise, and to forget how to stay centered and rooted in the Spirit who gives life.
I am grateful for the almost accidental selection of this small book. It would have been helpful at any time. It’s a special grace to have read it close to my annual retreat, which I begin a week from this writing.
For me, retreat is a privileged time of silence and mediation during which I can listen attentively for the quiet voice of God. That experience, in God’s good plan always reminds me and helps me to be attentive for God’s presence in all that is real, true and loving — even in the noise and confusion of life.
I do encourage you to enjoy such moments each day.
Peace to all.