Navigating a relationship without effective communication is like trying to steer a sailboat with a torn sail, a damaged rudder, and no wind. The result is little to no progression, frustration, and fear. Poor communication exacerbates relationship problems and lessens the likelihood of success for everyone involved.
While we may easily apply the sailboat metaphor to relationships in marriage, family, the community, and business, we may neglect to invoke it in an area of our life where its lesson can help if we use it and hurt if we don’t—our faith life.
It has been said that communication between God and his children happens primarily in two ways: engagement with the holy Scriptures, where God speaks to us; and prayer, where we speak to God. The foundation of both is faith.
Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith [1 Timothy 1:18–19].” To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,”* abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 162; *from Galatians 5:6).
We may often wonder, If I am grounded in faith and believe that God speaks to me, why do I have trouble hearing what he has to say? Common answers are: fear—we may be afraid that we won’t like what we hear; being self-absorbed—if we are wrapped up in our own desires, it is difficult to discern a calling that may be in direct conflict with a selfish journey.
More often than not, the answer to the question is our inability to “hear” God over the hustle and bustle of our hurried world—a reality that is never more evident than at this time of year.
So how do we break through the noise and perceive the messages God intends for us? The answer is the same for establishing and maintaining any successful relationship—regular and deliberate communication. In order to connect with God, this translates to consistent prayer and study of the Scriptures, as well as regular participation in the Mass and the sacraments of the Church.
If we turn these individual and community practices into habits, they will “sail” us to a place where we will become attuned to God’s voice. During this time of Advent and Christmas, push gently past the sense of chaos and make time for old-fashioned communication with our heavenly Father—after all, his Son is the reason for the season!