Cars whizzing by, chirping birds and buzzing cell phones are just some examples of noisy distractions in our everyday lives. When you’re trying to quiet yourself to pray, those sounds seem like they are ten times louder.
I’m lucky enough to have an adoration chapel at my parish, but even in there, a cough, a clearing of the throat or the sound of turning pages in a prayer book feel like a conspiracy to prevent me connecting with God. One would expect that at Mass it would be easier, right? Not so, and in addition to the noises is added the antics of little children.
It’s at those moments that I recall my college Native American literature class. Not only did we read the stories, but we also learned a bit about the culture. One of the tribes from the central plains would allow the children to be, let’s say, mischievous during certain religious ceremonies. They were allowed to pinch people, sprinkle them with water and pranks of that sort without repercussion. The theory was that the adults would learn how to concentrate more on the ceremony and less on what was going on around them. I wonder if God is allowing those distractions for me to practice paying attention to Him. If I can’t put aside the distractions at Mass, how can I listen for Him in the everyday distractions?
Another thought that comes to mind is when Elijah was waiting for the Lord to speak to him (1 Kings 19:11-13). God was not in the strong wind, the earthquake or the fire, but rather in a tiny whispering sound. Perhaps God is speaking in what I’m calling a distraction and I’m not paying attention. Maybe that cell phone going off in the middle of Mass is a reminder for me to pay closer attention to what is going on instead of letting my mind wander. The crying child could be a reminder of the tears Jesus shed for me and that I need to be more open to His will for me. And the next time I feel distracted, I can use the distraction as an opportunity to ask Jesus to help me focus on Him.