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What is Saving My Life these Days

May 2, 2012

I can be a grump.  I am the first to admit it.  Some days, I would like to just stick to my own agenda, not move on my children’s schedule, much less other adults’ schedules.  Sometimes, I don’t want a neighbor to call me to ask if I can watch her son for 10 minutes after swim practice in order that she can juggle her busy schedule with two children.  I don’t want to go up to my daughter’s school to volunteer, much less make supper for the Wednesday night classes at church.  Showing up for my women’s group seems like to much work some weeks.  Sometimes I just want to be left alone.

Today was one of those days.  Two weeks ago, I got strep for the first time in my life and it was miserable.  It took me until today to finally feel completely like myself again.  In the midst of my sickness, I also had to care for my daughter was sick and juggle my boys.  As I recovered, my husband left town to help his mom move her things to from the West Coast to Texas.  I feel like I am all given out.  I have self-sacrificed, I have taken care of others, and now I just want to withdraw for a while.  Is it too much to ask to go on a silent retreat for two days and recover?

Yes, it is too much to ask, I realized this afternoon as I managed to fit in my quiet time.  I read this in Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, et al:

God, help us to imitate you as we feed those who hunger for bread, for justice, for companionship, for forgiveness, for alternate ways of living in this world.  Give us your words, equip our hands, and guide our feet.  Sustain us, Lord, with your healing love.  Amen.

Well, there it was.  My pleading for an escape was the wrong prayer.  While retreats are a good thing for spiritual renewal, retreats as an escape from responsibility are not.  I didn’t need an escape.  I needed sustenance, so I could help out that neighbor who needed help, so I could forgive that driver who was tailgating me even though there was no one in the passing lanes next to me.  Sustenance is what is necessary, not escape.

If escape is not an option, than what do I do?  In the introduction to Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World, a “wise old priest” invited Barbara Brown Taylor to speak at his church.  When she asked what she should speak on, he responded  by saying, “Come tell us what is saving your life now.”  In preparation for a book study I am starting this week, I stumbled upon this interrogative again.  What is saving my life now?  The answer to that is in part the sustenance I seek to enable me to feed those who hunger for companionship and forgiveness.

I’ve realized the answer to that isn’t that complex or deep.  My superheroes?  Time reading the Bible and books on Christianity.  Journaling and writing.  A few hours on my bike a week.  True girlfriends–women with whom I am beyond small talk.  My gratitude list which I’ve been working on off and on since 1994 (that’s right, I have whole journals full of things I am thankful for–the names havechanged over the years–happy list, gratitude list, thankful list, but the essence is the same.  I keep thinking I should count them, but the number doesn’t matter).  Time spent with my husband.  Time volunteering at Madeleine’s school.   Time being present in the moment, without rushing.  These are things I need to remember to turn to when I don’t feel like it.  These things can transform me when I feel like the grump is here to stay forever.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you,

Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims way.

Those who go through the desolate valley

Will go find it a place of springs

For the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

Psalms 84:4-5

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