A Daily Walk Just to Listen

Susan Cosio - Sacramento, California
As heard on All Things Considered, October 2, 2006
Susan Cosio

As a hospital chaplain, parent and writer, Susan Cosio often finds her life filled with responsibilities and distractions. But she believes the quiet time of a daily walk helps her stay connected to God.

Age Group: 30 - 50

Sometimes I feel like I have no real sense of direction. At 45, this is a little scary. I think my distraction is due to the variety of roles I play and my tendency to try to please others. Much of my day is spent responding to requests: “Mommy, will you…” “Susan, can you…” My world is full of spoken and unspoken expectations that I try to live up to as a parent, as a person, as a friend.

I believe I have to remove myself from the voices that barrage me in order to find my true compass. This includes a daily walk just to listen. The guiding light of my life is the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. In our hectic, noisy world, I have to slow down or withdraw in order to hear it. Prayer, I have discovered, is less about what I say and more about what I hear.

Time set apart with God is like a hike to a peak from the middle of a dense forest; it gives me perspective and some ability to see where I’ve been and where I am going.

Discerning God’s voice is not so hard when I make time to listen closely. Sometimes I hear it as a sudden insight when I step back from a situation. Other times, it’s a deep sense of my priorities or a conviction about something I should do or say. I often take a walk with a pencil and notepad in my pocket, and return with notes for a speech or piece of writing. Later, when someone tells me she was moved by the words I’d scribbled on that paper, I know my prompting came from God.

My pursuit of spiritual truth is not about religion as much as it is about relationship. It is not about intellectualizing God’s commands, but about internalizing his truth within my heart as well as my head — an understanding so deep and intimate that it affects not only my thinking, but my behavior as well. On my daily walks, I’ve recognized how to parent my children through difficult situations, been prompted to call a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while, and felt compelled to reach out to strangers who soon became my friends.

I believe in a daily walk to listen because that is when I am close to God; that is when I find my way. I am most at peace when I tune out the voices of the world long enough to hear the still, small voice of God directing me. “Be still,” Psalm 46 reminds me, “and know that I am God.”

Susan Cosio is a chaplain at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, California. She also writes feature articles for The Davis Enterprise. Cosio’s favorite places to walk are in the mountains or on the beach, as well as through a nearby bird sanctuary.

Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory, Viki Merrick and Joanna Richards.