Much in the spiritual life depends on where we place our attention and what we allow to take up space in our minds. One ought never to underestimate our horrible external and internal resistance to the contemplative option.
By contemplative option I mean the choice to respond contemplatively and prayerfully to ourselves and the world. The contemplative option awakens the power of Christ in us that allows us to be reconciled and to enter into right relationship with creation and one another–a relationship of gentleness, love and forgiveness.
Contemplation is a choice about what we will have on our minds. Sometimes contemplation is a choice to step back, wait and to tolerate the withdrawal of not satisfying every appetite and desire.
The contemplative option may be a choice to face into our own instability and discern what truly satisfies from what leaves us numb, jittery and still hungry. There is no getting around it. The contemplative life is a sacrifice. Our yes to God is likely to mean a no to something else.
This quote from Loretta Ross got me thinking. What do we have to say “no” to in order to say, “yes” to God?
First let’s just admit that the contemplative option is never the first option. When my six-year-old is relentlessly whining about having waffles instead of pancakes and my girl’s bedroom is once again an overwhelming mess of duct tape, sweatshirts, mismatched socks, books, headbands and wrappers. When dinner isn’t planned and only one of the four major food groups is on the table. When there’s a nail in the tire, a clogged toilet, a last-minute homework assignment, an overdue library book notice, no my first thought is not the contemplative option. My first thought is the “swear and eat chocolate option.” What does it take for busy families to say “yes” to God? What do families need to sacrifice in order to be truly satisfied?
Is it the perception of perfection? Can we sacrifice the mirage that we try to put before other’s that we can “do it all?” That we “have it all together?” Can we put that false identity down and say,
“this is it. This is my best self today?” If I can say “no” to expectations of myself and others and “yes” to grace, I am closer to the contemplative option.
Can we sacrifice the falsehood that we have control of time? I look at pictures of my children taken just three years ago. Little round faces, dimpled hands and tiny shoes and I think, ‘that was five minutes ago!” I can grieve that, lament that, even be angry that that time is over. That I am no longer a mother with babies. I can bargain with time. Try like crazy to control time. Fight it and try to conserve it. The truth is time is what I make it. Can I sacrifice the control of time and accept, accept accept that every moment, every day is sacred and that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that yesterday was and it was. The contemplative option is not controlled by time, but is guided by the moment. The sacrifice comes in accepting that time is not ours to control.
Jesus said, “come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will give you rest?” Can we sacrifice our egos long enough to come to Jesus and find the strength we never had in the first place? Our egos egg us on. They convince us that we can do it on our own, or somehow convince us that we do not need God in our daily lives. Can we sacrifice our egos long enough to admit when we need help? Can we take shelter under the wings of a Mother Hen who deeply, deeply desires to walk with us on our journey. All we have to do is come.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
~ Mary Oliver ~