Aleteia

The counter-intuitive trick for seeking God’s kingdom first

AUTUMN WALK WITH DOG
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An autumn walk with my dogs reminded me of what I need to start, or stop, doing.

Morning walks with my Newfoundland dogs are an experience of vibrant autumn colors so stark that they stand against one another, sharp delineated lines that can only be found in nature as she heralds her last glory before the dormancy of winter. Quandry Peak cuts the cloudless sky with sharp-edged steel colored rock among the first blankets of winter snow, sinking into pine green forests and golden Aspens, as my eye travels down the mountain’s flank to the dirt road where I stand.

The view reminds me of an insight from a book I read during the autumn’s opposite, something I picked up last spring when I had pneumonia. The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air, by 19th-century theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, is a 51-page treatise on 10 verses from the sixth chapter of Matthew.

The Scripture takes up our response to God’s providence:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

What does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom? Seeking seems to require activity, doing. My tendency might be to create a list of activities to demonstrate how eager I am to reach the Kingdom, to please God — as if I could use this as currency to beg for His help with my needs.

Counterintuitively, Kierkegaard instructs us that first we must stop. Stop doing. Stop striving and become silent. Our silence and inaction enable us to turn our complete attention to God, and thereby seek God’s perfect plan before we begin constructing our own.

Only when our hearts and minds quiet enough to hear God’s thoughts is God truly our priority. Our readiness to stop and listen for God’s instruction is our strength. In wordless surrender, we finally acknowledge that God is our Source for everything we need, he knows our needs, and He will provide perfectly.

When I go out for a morning walk with my dogs and my mind is filled with worry and plans of what I must accomplish today, I fail to notice the colors of nature. I miss the birdsong. And most certainly, I miss the “still, small voice of God.” Only when I quiet my mind can I be present to experience the beauty of my surroundings, to acknowledge that in this moment all is well, and in the silence, I can experience God’s assurance. As we pursue silent communion with God in the midst our worries, we demonstrate our trust in God’s goodness.


LEARN MORE

Learn more about the importance of silence through these reflections and considerations:

Cardinal Sarah dares the world to be silent

3 Ways to Cultivate Silence

Pope Francis: Eucharistic Adoration is the secret to knowing the love of Jesus Christ

And silence isn’t just needed for prayer. It’s good for our bodies and minds as well:

Daily exposure to silence is essential for your memory

Try this daily habit for more creativity in your day

How to practice Catholic mindfulness