By Kathleen Finley
“Heartstorming: Creating a Place God Can Call Home” by Robert J. Wicks. Paulist Press (Mahwah, New Jersey, 2020). 158 pp., $21.95.
In these unsettling days, the prospect of talking with a gentle, listening friend about our relationship with God may sound appealing indeed. That’s what Robert Wicks, author, speaker and psychologist, provides here for the reader. His introduction sets the tone: “Come Sit By Me: An Invitation to Prayerfully Experience Living with More Meaning, Inner Peace and Joy.”
He describes his goal as “to enhance the spiritual life so our approach to meeting God can become more powerfully incarnational, experiential and relevant. Heartstorming, as a process or attitude, is designed to help us move more deeply into the present with God in all of our life, in every encounter.” He suggests that to do this task well we need both clarity and kindness, which he goes on to embody throughout the book.
Although it was written well before the pandemic and its forced isolation, there is much in this book that can be helpful these days.
For example: “Sadness, disappointments, rejections and other gray times in our day and life need to be brought to prayer and quiet reflection. In doing this, the themes can be taken to heart, pondered on a walk or shared in a discussion with an old friend. On another level, they will also prompt us when guiding others to encourage them to be more sensitive to the question of where sadness might be leading them in their lives as well.”
Wicks suggests that our emotions, instead of getting in the way of prayer, may help us tune in more effectively to God. “In seeking to appreciate the presence of God through an awareness of our emotions, none should be ignored. Both the positive and what we would term ‘negative’ emotions are portals to experiencing both what God is trying to teach us and ways of intimacy that can only be touched through appreciating those feelings. Emotions serve as hints to look further to see how God may be sitting with us.”
After a couple of general sections in the book, Wicks presents 45 examples of what he calls field notes, each a couple of pages of reflection on the ways he has noticed God at work in his life lately. An example is the inevitable feeling that we all have at times of loneliness, feeling a bit left out of “the action.”
He suggests: “In each instance it is actually the beginning of a transforming experience. It awakens you to the sense of your own uniqueness in the eyes of God. Only God will ever really, completely ‘get you.’ You remember at that moment of loneliness and separation that you are not really, totally alone or on your own. You feel at the core of your existence that your name is written in the palm of his hand.
“You recall the messages from John’s Gospel: ‘I won’t leave you orphaned; I will come back for you. …You are my friend.’ You are not really alone,” he continues. “It’s a shame that periods of loneliness are often not unwrapped for what they can be: a chance to go spiritually deeper and to be a gentler, understanding presence to others when they are having a tough time in their own journey because of experience of feeling apart.”
His final section invites the reader to make his or her own field notes and offers some ideas of how to begin. This book is especially helpful and geared toward those who are in a helping position, whether officially or just by who they are in their lives, although almost anyone could benefit from this warm, supportive “conversation.”
Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including “Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses,” “Building a Christian Marriage: Eleven Essential Skills” and “The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace,” and previously taught in the religious studies department at Gonzaga University.