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I recently returned from a trip from Florida with my family. It was nice to see my in-laws again. It had been two years since my husband's mother had seen our children so it was a heart-warming reunion. As with any family vacation, though, there was definitely a limit on the personal time each one of us had to ourselves. A whole new routine ensued. If it could be considered a routine at all, more like a chaos filled "jam everything you can into nine days" itinerary!
Family vacations, in my view, seem more like family "boot camps", as the space that usually provides a nice cushion of personal comfort is stripped away and we oftentimes are left exposed to the personality traits in both ourselves and the others in our family that we find least desirable and on a regular schedule are digested in smaller doses. As a mother, who finds myself referring all of this and striving to keep the bickering to a dull roar, more than ever I am seeking clarity and a sense of peace and direction during such times.
It wasn't until the third or fourth morning, after a couple of days that consisted of many temper tantrums from the kids and harsh words from both my husband and I, directed at both one another and them, that I found myself waking up at four in the morning. Almost like clockwork, when my spiritual thirst is at its peak and oftentimes hasn't found its source for refreshment, I wake up at these hours to spend time with God. Eagerly, and very carefully, lest I rouse one of my slumbering children, I tip-toed down stairs to the living room.
After making a cup of coffee, taking some long sips, enjoying it's flavor and the feel of hot ceramic in my hands, a juxtaposition to the cool air in the living room, I eased myself upon an over-sized recliner, though not reclining, and opened myself to the Lord. Letting all thoughts rise up and then fall away, like gentle winds, attempting to distract, yet remaining transparent and fading from my internal view and perception. The winds picked up, distracting thoughts beckoning me to interpret them, alluring seeds promising to birth new thoughts rose up. I just let them fall, as Eknath Easwaran puts it, "like pearls into the sea of my subconscious". It took some time, but eventually there were no thoughts, and a peace and love broke upon me, like the sun breaking upon a new day.
Glory be to God for the mercy and strength, the hope and love He touches each of our souls with in our hours of spiritual thirst. We have only to seek and He will lay before us all the fruits our hearts desire. Clarity in times of confusion. Hope in times of despair. The sense of union with His infinite love when before entering His presence only a disconnect was felt, the clutter of the world crowding the pursuits of a heart reaching out to Him.
After my time with God, I settled back to write and pray. I realized how oftentimes irrational my words can be to my children. How I can lack compassion when they need it the most. I repented. I fall chasms short from any sense of being like Christ. Yet, we are expected to strive to conform to his character, a daunting task made only possible by His Spirit within us. Perhaps it's not wise to think of it as a "task". It's much more positive to see it as a natural progression, as we allow our hearts to be continually opened, more and more, by God's grace and love. Once open wide, His light flows unfettered and unobstructed through us and then naturally out to others. We are indeed His feet and hands, as Teresa of Avila once put it,
"Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world....".
Christ has the power to transform the world, if only we would let him work through us..
Reflecting upon all of this led me to realize that it is only after mornings such as this one, when I find time to open myself up to God, to seek Him in the throne room of my heart, to pray, to meditate, to write, that the rest of the day that follows is a much more fruitful and peaceful one than other mornings when I rise with my children and stumble through yet another hectic day. When I am filled with more peace and a renewed sense of discernment and clarity I am much more effective in living my life as God would have me and a lot more productive in the ways my family needs me to be.
All of this reminded me of the concept of tithing. Giving God the first fruits of our labor. When we give God the first fruits of our day, the first portion of time that we have in the morning that sometimes can mean the only time we have to ourselves for the whole day, He, in turn rewards us with unspeakable spiritual riches. He blesses us greatly because we are sacrificing something that is precious to us in order to honor and seek Him. Such an act acknowledges His glory and presence in our hearts and our humble need for Him to provide us with continued sustenance. It brings us closer to our Creator and allows our hearts and minds to have the opportunity to be renewed and strengthened, aiding us through the challenges of a new day.
Have you tithed some of your time today? Have you set aside a portion of time to spend with God? I have a confession. Though I have made a concerted effort lately to do just that, I find it very difficult to maintain a regular habit of it. Distractions abound, that's for sure! Just this morning, my son came down twice while I was meditating! But I firmly believe the more persistence we put into our practice, of entering into His presence, the easier it will become to find opportunities to enter more into it. Even with the uneven gait in which I stumble through my practice, contemplative moments have broken upon me spontaneously throughout my day and ordinary moments have become more and more permeated with His presence. And we all can experience such moments...all that's needed is a heart that simply seeks the Divine :)
Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section! Thank you!