Sherry Weddell outlines a series of steps that parishes can take to foster this culture of active faith. In this chapter she discusses the first of several elements of the step she calls “Break the silence”.
A threshold conversation can begin with an opening question, such as “Can you tell me about your relationship with God to this point in your life?” Do not settle for labels, but ask clarifying questions to better understand what the individual thinks and feels about God.
The second essential question is, “If you could ask God one question that you knew he would answer right away, what would it be?” This question often reveals current needs or struggles that someone in the parish may be able to address.
In your own faith:
- Have you ever listened to a “threshold conversation”? What was it like?
- Can you think back to a time when perhaps you should have listened supportively and asked clarifying questions, and instead you jumped in with catechesis, or apologetics, or giving personal advice?
When I go out into the world with my whole horde, nearly every moment is a "threshold conversation," because there is an obvious icebreaker that lends itself to discussing things more deeply than "Hi, how ya' doing?"
"Are all those kids yours?" happens a lot.
My response which ranges from clever to bored already with this if it feels too familiar/too wrong given the context to better than clever, honest, determines the next step. I've done, "I think so...though we may have picked up a few more, honestly after ten I stopped counting. If they all fit in the van, it's all good." which gets a laugh, and usually an admission, either of wanting more children or wondering about more children, or having decided not to have more children. But showing up with ten always gets people talking.
Sometimes it is a lament. Because the door has been shut deliberately, and padlocked, and kept closed until it is frozen. I have one friend at the drycleaner's, she lights up when the little kids come in with me. It is something she does not have.
Sometimes it is a spark, and I can see, that person is considering if in fact, God is knocking and asking if there is room in the inn of that person's heart, for one more. "How do you do it?" is usually a signal that someone is pondering the possibility, that they are called to more.
I have wished on occasion, that the stock humor answers weren't so easy to let slide, because I may have shut down conversations that could have been. Listening to Jesus, not talking to him or even talking about Him, is the better portion. It is a hard thing though, for listening is always other directed. It can never be self directed.
Fortunately, I've at least learned to sometimes, not have to be the class clown, and that allows the Holy Spirit to better use the opportunity of conversation. Ten kids are the ice breaker, but not for me to put on a stand up, but for us to go and have our visit.
As to the second question:
If I could ask God one question? I don't know what I would ask, maybe, "What is it you want me to do?" I'd probably ask if I could ask a few more, and if He wouldn't mind, could I keep asking him questions whenever they arose? "Could you undo the knots in my brain that keep me from doing what I should sometimes, and keep me from not doing what I shouldn't?" also comes to mind. "Will you help me make it and help all of these people you've trusted to me make it?" is also a good one.
But I also know, all we need do, is sit at His feet, listen, and let love impel us to action. So many times, the command in the Bible is "Listen." Mary tells us, "This is my son. Listen to him." God says, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him." "Whoever has ears ought to hear." "Who is this that the wind and seas obey his voice?" "Listen to him, he is calling out to Elijah." We hear over and over again, "Listen."
God is always knocking, if we need any further examples, there is the prayer said to Blessed Mother Teresa by Jesus himself.
I Thirst for You
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock… (Rev. 3, 20)
It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.
And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father ("As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…" (Jn. 15:10) I come - longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.
I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.
I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? "Come to Me all you who thirst…" (Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.
I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.
Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.
Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul.
No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: "I THIRST…"(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: "I looked for love, and I found none…" (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. "No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…"