When Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise points his finger at the view screen on the command deck and says “Engage!” the whole spaceship springs into action. The navigator sets the course, the engines come to life, the crew occupies their stations and the ship speeds away to some faraway destination and a new adventure. With that one word, a huge vessel and hundreds of people go into motion.
We use the same word to describe someone fully involved in an endeavor or a conversation. If you’re engaged in conversation, you are in the moment with the person, looking in his or her eyes, listening intently and even physically expressing yourself with gestures and facial animation.
Being fully engaged in a relationship means being with the person in every way—mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Sometimes relationships aren’t easy, but we can understand how they work on the human level. With God, it’s a bit more difficult. How can we be fully engaged with someone we can’t see, hear or touch?
The usual methods of connecting with God are prayer, Bible study, meditation and the various other spiritual disciplines. But it’s possible to do those things and still not be fully engaged with God.
If all we do is talk during our prayers and don’t pause to listen, we might as well be talking to ourselves in a one-sided conversation. If we read the Scriptures without considering what God may be saying to us personally, it becomes a collection of interesting stories. If we see him as a casual observer in our lives, who only checks in occasionally to see if we are toeing the line, God becomes like a distant relative we don’t know well and perhaps even fear. We certainly don’t relish his visits.
Engaging with God in a meaningful relationship isn’t a weekend thing or a morning quiet time encounter we forget about for the rest of the day. We engage 24-7 with him, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically (we honor him with our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit) as we get to know him better and grow in grace and understanding, which is a lifetime journey. That’s why it’s called practicing his presence. Some days we’ll do better than others, but as long as our faces are set toward him, we’ll be moving in the right direction.
The disciplines are still the foundation of spiritual formation. They help us learn to be continually aware of his presence. Our one-sided conversations turn into listening prayer, with times of silence and reflection. Lectio divina, an expanded way ofreading the Bible (praying, reading, silence, journaling and more reading, silence and more prayer), turns our relationship with God into a deep meeting of the minds.
We don’t have to worry about whether or not God is pleased with our progress. As a loving dad is happy with each baby step of his child, our heavenly Father is happy with our baby steps as well. His grace permeates everything we do and teaches us to be more fully engaged with him.
Engage! And may his grace be with us all.