Insights with Emily: Holy moments

Emily Salerno-Oswald
Scriptural Columnist

“Where did I see you today?”

Do you ever ask God this question?

Sometimes, I think we convince ourselves that we already know where we saw God before even asking him. We go to Mass or confession or adoration and we assume that one of those places must have been where we encountered God for the day. Not only that, but we may limit ourselves to thinking that place was the only place where we encountered God for the day.

Those places are gifts and there is no denying that the odds of encountering God in one of them are highly elevated, if not altogether inevitable. However, when we stop and take inventory of the events of our day, it may surprise us that God was present in an instant when we did not notice him. That’s why it’s good to ask.

And now, in a shameless plug for my Ignatian household, Tal’itha Cu’mi, I will recommend a prayer that may help if you are curious to see where God was present in your day.

It is called the “Examen” prayer and it was developed by St. Ignatius as a way to engage in a type of prayer in which we open up our imaginations to God and give him permission to speak to us through them. Not ironically, this is known as “Imaginative Prayer.” A clever title, I know.

This type of prayer is a great way to mentally envision and process all the things that happened to you in a day and then ask God, “Where were you?”

God is always with us, but there may be a moment of your day that he wants to bring to your attention to emphasize how present he was. A lot of times, these moments in which God makes his presence known may be a lot less stereotypically pious or “holy” than we think. And yet they are indeed holy. It’s just that we may need to redefine, or rather expand, our notion of what counts as a holy moment.

For example, I was praying the other day and asking God, “Where did I see you?” and the memory from the day that came to mind was a moment when I was on the phone with my dad and I was laughing.

I was sitting in the grass under a tree (a very Franny vibe, I must admit; have I unwittingly been sucked over to the dark side of hipster Frannies?). Anyway, I was sitting under the tree, and my dad made me laugh so hard that I literally fell back into the grass with laughter. My dad is one of the only people I know whose sense of humor most closely aligns with mine. He gets me, and I get him. Therefore, similar things strike us as funny.

There are many times when a friend or acquaintance will tell me a joke that is mildly funny, but I rarely laugh as genuinely as when my dad makes me laugh. In the laughter, I find a sense of being fully known and being fully myself — with no inhibitions.

In looking back and reflecting on my day, that funny moment was the moment where God wanted me to see Him and know that he was there, present as the heart of my joy. That moment when I couldn’t contain my laughter was when God said, “There I am, Emily. That’s me.”

Sometimes, I think we kid ourselves, believing that we can only encounter God when we are kneeling, straight-backed and erect in the absolute posture of reverence and praise. Again, reverence for God is beautiful — I’m not undermining that. But we shouldn’t be reverent to a fault, in that we don’t allow ourselves to let loose and be ourselves around our dad.

God loves it when we are at peace. In fact, he is our peace and our joy. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to encounter him in the “right” way that you miss him altogether.

I challenge you this week, at least once, to stop and intentionally ask God, “Where did I see you today?”

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” – Timothy Keller

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” – Proverbs 31:25

“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” – Job 8:21