The entirety of my trip, I saw God in simple things – a sunny day without rain, swans and ducks swimming in ponds, the architecture of a beautiful church, sheep and cows grazing in fields, fellow tourists greeting me with a funny story and smile. It took a plane ride across the Atlantic for me to become refreshed and remember to purposefully think about God’s presence in all things, no matter how ordinary the moment may be. After my trip, I thought about several ways in which I can continue to find God in everyday life.
- Slow down and be present in the moment. Purposefully reflecting about each action taken throughout the day – talking to a coworker, driving to/from work, answering emails – and being fully present in those moments helps to bring our minds to the present rather than the future or past. During these routine tasks, we should try to think about the intention of these actions instead of whatever checklists we have to fulfill that day. What is God trying to tell us in this simple moment?
- Review the day. Examining the experiences, thoughts, and feelings felt during the day can usually uncover moments of God’s presence that were first missed in the present. Journaling or reflecting in prayer are helpful practices. This review of the day is a part of Ignatian Spirituality called the Examen.
- Surprise someone. Shortly after I arrived back in the U.S. from my trip, one of my closest friends gave me a surprise phone call. She wanted to set aside time to hear about my trip and catch up on other details of life. I was touched by her thoughtfulness. We ended up talking for three hours, and I would have to count on four hands the amount of times I found God in the conversation. Something very small, like a phone call, can have a huge impact.
- Find the positive in the midst of the negative. An older gentleman at my parish church always finds a way to see the good in a situation. He has a kind word to say about everyone he meets, discovering their inherent gifts to share with others, and giving them genuine compliments. When I’ve asked him how he can remain so cheerful amid negativity or discouraging news, he tells me that it’s all about choosing to find the happiness in each day.
- Listen. Are we actually listening to our parents when they call us? How about the coworker we’re working on a group project with? The digital world has sped up the amount of multitasking we think we can perform, but at the cost of authentic human interactions. That emergency text from our friend may require an hour phone call instead of only an emoji. When we slow down and process what those around us are saying and needing, we find God in those moments of happiness, joy, sadness, and advice-giving.
- Find ways to focus on others. When we spend our energy on others, we become less self-absorbed and concerned with worldly thoughts. One of St. Augustine’s prayers says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Shedding worldly needs and thinking of our brothers and sisters in Christ help us to focus on God’s individual plan for us.
- Enjoy the nature around us. The natural world provides us with so much beauty and wonder that it is important not only to admire it, but also to acknowledge God’s creation and take care of it. In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, he says, “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.”
- “God is here.” When times are dull or draining, it can be hard to think about God or even be optimistic. But if we say, “God is here in this moment,” it can be easier for us to reflect on his lesson for us that day. Reminding ourselves of this gives us the extra spirit to carry out tasks of the day.
- Practice generosity. On Facebook, I enjoy following pages dedicated to rescue animals. In one recent photo, a mother cat who just had a litter of kittens also took in an orphaned kitten and fed it. A video of a guide dog helping a blind dog has gone viral and completely warmed my heart. When we look at animals interacting with one another and offering up all they have to help a fellow creature, we can see God in these acts of generosity.
- Do things the “old fashioned way.” Technology has provided us with many ways to automate tasks, or make them easier. However, sometimes doing things the “old fashioned way” allows us to put more thought into the action. Handwriting a note to a loved one, talking to a coworker in-person rather than via email or phone, and walking to lunch rather than driving are some examples of how we can slow down and reflect more easily on God’s presence.
For more resources on Laudato Si', please click here.