I'm up at 6:30am, but I'm foggy and slow. Sleep is not steady or deep in these days of fresh grief. I shuffle around and know that I really need to get a move on if I want to get out the door by 7:20. I have breakfast and coffee to make, some sort of outfit to put together, and in the midst of all that, I want to pause for a few minutes and pray.
In past years, it was too easy for me to skip that third part. I'd often seem to run out of time in the morning, and that was the first thing to go out the window. Not so much these days. I can't seem to pull it together on my own. I need that time to gather my head and heart, to feel ready to step out into a world that is bustling, demanding, and often overwhelming.
The Benedictine Rule says it this way:
Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart...Life does not operate according to a set of instructions that I can follow and obtain guaranteed results. Joan Chittister says, Life is not a series of events to be controlled. Life is a way of walking through the universe whole and holy. I have spent way too much of my energy trying to make things go "my way." The amount of stress that I have created over the years by trying to control outcomes and situations was a waste of time. These days I'm learning how to pay attention to what is going on around me by spending daily time tuning in my soul's radio dial to God's channel. (Yes, I'm entirely aware that sounds corny... but I can't come up with a better way to describe what prayer calls me to.)
If we do not live life consciously, in other words, we may not be living at all, Chittister says. Rather than try to govern life by my self-focused agenda, I yearn to be sensitive and aware of what is going on around me:
Spirituality does not come by breathing. It comes by listening to this rule and to its insights into life "with the ear of the heart"... What attention to the spiritual life does change is our appreciation for the presence of God in our dull, mundane lives. We come to realize that we did not find God; God finally got our attention. The spiritual life is a grace with which we must cooperate, not a prize to be captures or a trophy to be won.This morning, in preparation for my lesson with the Providence students, I re-read Acts 1. This verse is like a clanging bell each time I read it:
Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart... (Acts 1:24)I love it because I remember it from when I took Biblical Greek. In the Greek it is literally written, O Lord, heart-knower of all..
God is our heart-knower. He knows us far better than we know ourselves. Such a comfort! And we will learn to know our hearts the way he does, and more importantly, know his heart better, when we learn to listen in prayer with feeling and spirit, not just our minds.
We are studying the Book of Acts for the month of September at Providence Hall. As a new school, I feel we have much to learn from the early years of the church. Personally, I am humbled by their persistent and humble prayer and worship. As I stumble through this season of losing my friend Claire, I cannot stop the habits that have sustained me, no matter how thrown off I am by the events of these past days. Weakened as I am, I realize anew that I need to find God's order for my days, rather than think I can put it together on my own. In my sadness, he has my attention. And that is a good thing.