01 April 2002
The most precious secret I have found for creating happiness is the practice of silence and inner listening.
By NATHALIE CHAVANNE
My daily time of quiet - even though sometimes brief - is first of all a kind of 'breathing in' before the turbulence of the day. Next I try to put myself under the eye of my Creator. I love the simple, unexpected thoughts which sometimes come to me. They help me to manage my life in all its aspects.
One day, I wrote in the little notebook I use for this special moment: 'I need you to be faithful in small things in order to do bigger things with you.' These 'small things' are: the time I go to bed at night in order to fit in my time of quiet at the beginning of next day; the welcome I give to an unexpected person; the way I talk about others... and even, sometimes, the way I drive the car or use the humblest kitchen utensils.
In the absence of special thoughts, I know that my quiet times prepare the ground for ideas or actions to germinate during the day as shoots of renewed life. I offer my very imperfect way of listening to God, who gives his original and appropriate response in his own time and way.
Light may shine on dark corners in my life - on a delicate relationship or a difficult situation. In a quiet time, a remark I earlier heard in passing may suddenly flash into my mind and take on special significance for me.
When my son slams the door in my face; when my daughter's inner world closes up to me and I find teenagers unbearable; when a certain trait in my character irritates my husband profoundly (or vice versa); when frustration or monotony threatens our life together; when I lack patience with ageing parents, I need the gust of fresh air which inner listening gives me. It reminds me that, despite the tensions, the family is a place where we can learn to love and create happiness.
Sometimes I accompany my husband to far away countries where everything points out our cultural difference. If I ask myself what I am going to talk about with people there, a little voice murmurs, 'Share experiences of new life in your family.' Hearts open and often one discovers how rare happiness is in this primary cell of community life.
When relationship difficulties with my colleagues chip away at my faith, then I must also remember that it is not our merits which create success but our willingness to train what we French call our 'inner ear', so as to discover the next step of growth.
Translated by Rosemary Thwaites
Photo by Chloë Smith