Accepting What Is
The old adage “Practice what you preach” comes to mind at this moment. Yesterday’s post was about being like the feather, floating on the breath of God—a beautiful image of trust and surrender. Yet . . . I just checked the Covid-19 update for my state. Since yesterday, 3,531 more people have tested positive, and in my county, 257. Since yesterday. Our state news’ headline is that vaccines “may” be widely available by June. June, six long months off. National and local health experts are telling us that the worst is yet to come—December, January, February—the dark and fallow times of the year. It’s hard to wait patiently and with trust in this waiting season. It’s difficult to float on anyone’s breath when my heart is beating quickly with anxiety. Maybe yours is, too.
The Light seems to be hiding out in “lockdown.” That’s how I feel at times, though it sounds so desperate, so “unfaithful.” But faithfulness is being honest to who and how we are at any given moment. Faithfulness is listening to the shadow sides of us for what ancient wisdom they impart, as well as to the steady, trusting parts of us. We are the whole package, shadows and light, mind and heart, body and spirit, exactly as we were created to be.
Just recently, I picked up a book I read fifteen years ago by a favorite spiritual writer of mine, Father Richard Rohr, who takes our staid ideas of Christianity and turns them upside down, much like Christ did with The Law and the Hebrew scriptures. Rohr has angered many a straight-laced Christian, much like anyone who claims that God cannot be contained within our short-sighted denominational boxes. The book is entitled Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, and among many wisdom-filled statements that Rohr has absorbed from his own ancient guides, he writes, “For some reason, it is much easier to attend church services than to quite simply reverence the real. . . .Living and accepting our own reality will not feel very spiritual” (19). Living and accepting our own reality will not feel very spiritual. To that truth, I say, Amen!
Right now, our reality is living through a pandemic, something none of us could even have imagined this time last year when we were busy Christmas shopping, attending office parties, and opening our doors to family and friends. “Unprecedented” has been the go-to word since February, 2020. Our reality, at least for some of us, is keeping our distance from those we most love and avoiding what, in the past, we called the “joys” of this season. Our reality is watching this pandemic continue to creep and crawl through our communities like some insidious smog and praying that our own efforts to stay safe will pay off; it is worrying whether our doctors, nurses, and hospital staff will stay well and able to care for us and those we love. If we contract the virus, our reality is anxiety over whether we will shake it off or end up on a ventilator. Our reality is watching leadership fail to lead and feeling helpless as defiance to restrictions and denial of science continue to take root. No, none of this feels very spiritual at all.
And yet, and yet. Rohr believes it is in our present reality—when we can indeed accept our reality—that we will discover God. God won’t be found in the veering away from, in the denying what is, in the defiance of what is true. God is found in what is. What is, is where God is. A not-too-ancient wisdom guide, Corrie Ten Boom, put that truth this way: “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” Present tense. She would know, having survived a Nazi concentration camp that killed her family.
So, I watch my candlelight, and though I was only going to decorate sparsely this winter season since our family won’t be gathering, I have decided instead to set out as many lights as I can. I take deep breaths to remember the Source of my breath. When the fear hits, I repeat, “What is, is where God is.” And I read, and reread, the wisdom of this guide, Richard Rohr: “Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can ‘everything belong’” (25). Yes, everything belongs, whether we want it to or not, and God is in the midst. Blessings to you.
*Rohr, Richard. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. Crossroad Publishing, 1999.