I want to be more like the trees, responding to the Force of Nature, the whispers of the Holy Spirit. I want to be flexible, available, ready to pivot and respond and care for what shows up in front of me. I want to let go of planning and control and worry.
And yet, I do need to plan.
The Psalm tells me there is nowhere I can go. If I lie down in the depths/Sheol/Hell, God is there. If I take myself far away, God is there, too. And yet there are places I do try to flee to when things get hard: to my phone, my computer, social media, books, TV. I flee to my plans, to my regrets, to my attachments. Sometimes I flee to food or drink. I flee to worry. I flee to complaining. God may in fact be in all those places, but my attention toward God has fled. I am putting my attention somewhere else, while God patiently waits for me to notice that the Presence is always with me.
Why do I flee?
“Maybe we make God.”
“We have everything we need right here to figure this out. It’s not about faith in God. It’s about having faith in each other.”
(from the Netflix series, Away)
To a person of faith, those are provocative statements! But while some will bristle at this idea, I see it as resonant with the Christian tradition….
It seems that almost everyone who comes to me for spiritual direction feels compelled at the start to tell me something like “I just can’t get into meditation or centering prayer.” Or “I have to admit I don’t have a consistent prayer practice.” They say it with sadness, and sometimes shame. Like they are missing out on something, something they really want.
And you know what? They are. They are missing out on something big, something they really want: a sense of connection to the Divine, to something bigger than themselves, to All-That-Is. But they are not missing out because they “can’t do” centering prayer, or don’t find the Lord’s Prayer meaningful anymore, or are finding more spiritual depth at yoga than at church.
No. They are missing out because…
Lamenting is not just complaining. It is crying out to God/the Universe/All-That-Is in blunt confusion, anguish, anger, grief or whatever else is weighing us down…It is a structured practice of bringing emotions that sometimes feel overwhelming into the light of the Holy One. Lamenting may start with complaining, but it then moves on…
On this Inauguration Day, I find myself humming the song “Gather Us In” by Marty Haugen. You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuLORIyEet4
As I listen, I find myself praying a prayer inspired by that song, and using many of the lyrics. I invite you to pray it with me. You can also use this as a pattern to pray your own prayers from favorite poems, popular songs, scriptures or hymns.
…“Grace is not magic. And Heaven will not do the work for you. Let us be very clear that Heaven never does what you can do yourself…. Heaven does what you cannot do and steps in after you’ve exhausted your own resources…. So when someone says, ‘Give me some Grace because I don’t want to do this,’ the answer is no, no, no, no, no. You’ll get to Grace…. Heaven doesn’t make life easy on you because you are frightened or because you don’t want to do something. Heaven directs you to do what you need to do because you’re frightened…” (Caroline Myss)