Stepping Stones – A Soulful Exercise

“Each breath, a stepping-stone to God”

Here is a lovely contemplative prayer exercise from Margaret Silf’s book The Inner Compass.  Margaret is a delightful writer, a lovely soul, and companion for the journey.

 I invite you to get comfortable, take a couple of deep cleansing breaths, and let your feeling paint a picture for prayer for you today.

I let the feeling paint its picture in my prayer today.  I let myself walk into the picture, feel the swirl of the river, and stand on the stepping-stone.  

My whole prayer today wants to be just time standing there in God’s unseen presence, on the stepping-stone.

The river is wide, so wide that I can’t see the other shore, however hard I strain my eyes.  

The water is clear and wild, full of unseen currents and unexpected rapids but calm shallows as well.  I feel at home in the river, standing on an island of truth.

Behind me on the riverbank is my little home, a stone-built cottage that keeps me warm and safe and keeps the world at bay.  My cottage is my kingdom, a place to return to when the river runs too wild and too cold, or when predators stalk the shoreline.

There is something disconcerting in the view out over the water.  What had seemed like a journey of adventure when I began to seek God’s truth and God’s Kingdom, is not all that it seemed because I can see only one stepping-stone, and I’m standing on it.  There is no way forward.    I can’t do anything about my position.  I’m standing here in the water on the one and only stone.  All I can do is stand here in the present moment and realize that there is no journey because there is no way.  There is a line of stones left behind me, but I don’t want to go back.  Truly, I don’t want to go back.

For a moment I feel a wave of panic, but it recedes and leaves me free to stand on my stone, breathing the air, feeling the spray of the water, listening to God’s heartbeat pulsing through creation. And waiting, just waiting, for God.

And then, when my heart is still, God is there beside me, silently placing the next stone in front of me and inviting me to take another step into the trackless waters.  Another breath, another prayer, another stone.  Just one more stone.

 My breathing becomes steady, each breath a stepping-stone to God.  As time passes, I learn to recognize God’s ways, and to trust, when I stand in the middle of the fast-moving water, that God will always bring me one more stone – just one – and call me forward to one next step.  

I welcome God’s arrival and smile my silent greeting.

I come to expect God, and to know that I can rely on this God.  I stand here on my stone, by little rocky island, and feel a ripple of anticipation as I turn toward the riverbank to greet him as he comes. God is a little late today, still there on the riverbank searching out the right stone.  

 And only now I see how God is doing it.  God takes the stones away, one by one, from my cottage on the riverbank.  Already it is half demolished.  God is dismantling my kingdom, bit by bit, to provide me with the way to discover God’s. 

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