I am trying to get used to using the new handle for the quiet days away at Winbourne. These are something that I have written in my diary for the whole year [in indelible ink!] Other than the birth of a grandchild or death itself my intention is to be there and yes, I can in fact relate to the new title, for they are indeed a breathing space in my busy schedule.
March’s Breathing Space took a slightly different form and one that I found helpful. We are evolving as we are ‘getting used to one another’ I do not really know any of the participants in this community (other than a friend who travels with me) yet we are there with the same intent and this itself brings with it a sense of community, common unity, one mindedness, a oneness in spirit. The focus for this and very special to me is the mid day Eucharist. As we humble ourselves before God together and regard the symbols of bread and wine, body and blood, broken and shed on our account, in fact to clear our account, pay our debt, I find this service a great leveller. We are all equal in blessing before God as we share in this together.
This month, after our morning prayer and period of personal quiet reflection and listening to God we shared in the Eucharist together and then had a more monastic style lunch than we have had in the past. Rather than all chattering and sharing our lives with one another, we sat in silence to eat our simple shared lunch whilst Kerry read to us from a book called The Ladder of Monks. This was a new experience and one that took a little getting used to. For all that I am a chatterbox and love words in all their forms, I found this easy to accommodate and far less disturbing to my whole day than the social lunch we have had before.
As for me, my day with God was enlightening as I explored the ideas of finding God in the quotidian; the daily repetitive tasks of life, the mundane. Realising that to restrict God to those times of day when I intentionally set my mind and heart to focus on Him is actually restricting that part of me that is spiritual to a small percentage of who I am. I want, desire, long for so much more, my aim is for 100% and I have a long way to go.
In discussion with my spiritual director, she said that what I was coming to was a more monastic approach to life, the practice of the presence of God as Brother Lawrence calls it. Kathleen Norris speaks of the child like attitude of play. The child does not see the washing of dishes in the dolly corner as work, but play and in this learns. I explored this – the feeling as water trickles on the hands ignites the senses. The sense of relaxation that comes with immersing hands into warm but not too hot water. The filling of vessels and tipping them out, the watching of the bubbles that form and pop, getting into a tub of water and learning about displacement, Eureka, an Archimedes moment of discovery! Jesus said I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
I thought about this and of how many sermons I have heard relating this either to trust or to coming empty handed as child with nothing to bring but himself and I pondered, wondered. Can we come as a humble child willing to discover? In the everyday events that are work as toil (toil because of the Fall) can we discover God? I believe that we can. Each of us would agree that God is ever present.
That is part of our theology but is this omnipresence head knowledge with verbal assent or is our daily experience informed by the head knowledge and vice versa. If we give intellectual assent to omnipresence but are not willing to see God each of the daily events then we could be accused of gnosicism. I for one want my theology to be informed by my daily experience of God as well as from book knowledge, head knowledge. I want to KNOW God in all areas of life.
What a blessing to spend a day away from the rush and bustle and sit in God’s presence and hear him speak and then have time to ponder and to wonder at what he says. To contemplate and know that I am so loved that He provides me with opportunity upon opportunity in daily life to know Him.
Exploring further, do we want to know God and experience him, is it about us? Do we say ‘I want to know more of God’ or are we willing to hear Him say, "I want you to know this about me." I discussed this with a friend yesterday and she was quick to relate this to our common life. As grandmothers there are things that we would like our grandchildren to know about us and sometimes we try to tell them, but they are busy and involved in what they are doing, wanting, saying, in that moment and do not want to take the time to hear. Are we like that with God? Is he saying, "Pauline, I want to tell you something about myself, I want you to know this." and I am busy saying ‘Not now, tell me what I want to know instead’
I am looking forward to the next quiet day, a time intentionally set aside for the purpose of hearing what God wants to say, and in the meantime I am making time for this as part of my daily walk as well.