By Caroline Miller
I didn’t know what to expect, but I went anyway. As I stood at the front door and knocked on that summer evening in 2002, I knew I would be meeting a group of people, some for the first time, and learning about Lectio Divina. Shah and his wife Karen greeted me at the door welcoming me into their home as if we had been friends for years. Truth be told, I had known Shah for two years because we worked for the same non-profit organization. What I didn’t know, as I stepped through the door, was just how much my life would change.
I met the other people who were already there, and we sat in their cozy living room chatting about the day’s events and sharing a little bit about ourselves. Soon we gathered around their dinner table and I was struck by their hospitality. They had made a meal for us. Shah is Persian, so we enjoyed lavash bread, feta cheese, and an assortment of fresh vegetables and pickles. I don’t know what it is about sharing a meal with people, but it’s such a pleasant experience and soon everyone was relaxed and enjoying the evening.
After much laughter and funny stories galore, we gathered in the living room once again to begin the practice of divine reading. The thing that struck me the most is how this time and space is opened. It is established as a time for us to open our minds to God by listening. We didn’t sing songs, we didn’t recite any prayers, we as a group came together to be quiet. Shah read a few paragraphs in one of the books of the Bible, and we sat in silence quieting our minds (which is no easy task) and listened.
In a place that hustles and bustles as much as Los Angeles, practicing the art of divine reading and meditation seemed so incompatible. But it worked. I had never experienced anything so simple, yet so powerful. As I sat there listening and trying to quiet my mind, a sense of peace washed over me, and I became aware of my surroundings in a way I had not noticed before. I caught a glimpse of beauty, the beauty of being present right where I was. My mind was not planning for the future or pondering what had happened in the past. I was present, and I was in awe of the Presence in the room. Needless to say, I went back the next week and the next.
Some times we read books together discussing them chapter by chapter. Other times we pondered a couple passages of Scripture. It was enlightening to hear what other people learned, realized, or experienced as they read the books or The Book. As people shared in that sacred space we created together, there grew a trust and an appreciation for one another, and especially the Divine. We grew closer to one another, but what went deeper into my soul was my experience with God as I sat before Him in silence.
Silence. How could silence bring such depth to an experience? How could silence bring me closer to my Creator? How could silence allow Jesus to fill my soul? Over the years, we laughed together, cried together, shared our deepest pain. As we practiced Lectio Divina, we watched how our pain was healed, our hope restored, our lives changed. Members of the group would stay for a while and move on. New people would join and add their own flavor to the group. But the thing that united us all throughout the years was the shared Divine space created when we met.
As the years went by my understanding of myself changed. My understanding of God changed. My understanding of what is important in life changed. I learned the amazing strength of community. I learned to trust a little more. I learned that I am loved by a Being bigger than my own comprehension. I learned it is ok to just be. And when we practice just being in silence, amazing things can happen.
When it came time for me to say goodbye to this incredible group of people four years later, it felt just like the day I said goodbye to my family when I left for college. This time, I was moving to another state to start the next chapter of my life. After all the hugs and tears, I drove away knowing I had been a part of something wonderful that had changed my life forever.