July 26, 2021
Decades later, I still remember a cross-stitched saying in a plain wooden frame that hung on the wall of my family doctor’s office. It read, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” As a child of five or six, I recall being bemused by that quotation. Were hurrier and behinder really words? And how could a person get behind if that person was, in fact, hurrying? I asked my mother to explain the meaning behind those tightly, perfectly stitched words, and ever since then, when I find I am tripping over myself in haste to get ahead, I remember the wisdom on a wall in a doctor’s small office from a long time ago.
The last two weeks, I’ve been sharing my reflections on morning prayer, called “Prime” in the Liturgy of the Hours, and its relationship to three ancient monastic vows: stability, conversion, and obedience. I’ve related the vows to the simple instructions that a parent teaches a child before crossing a street: Stop, look, and go. These steps are an analogy for a prayer method described by Brother David Steindl-Rast in his book, Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day. Stability is the “stop” we take before we begin our day, our invitation to sit with our God, by whatever name we call the Holy Other. Conversion involves the moments we take to look about us and listen for the Spirit’s nudging before we run ahead of ourselves with our own plans for the day. Today, I invite you to consider the last step: Go.
As Brother David writes, if we go without stopping and looking (as in, the hurrier I go, the behinder I get), we may find ourselves swallowed up in other people’s expectations and agendas, or we may find ourselves spending so much time “producing” that we fail to notice God in the present moment, the God who is “I AM.” For those of us on a creative journey, if we go before connecting to the Great Creator, we may soon find our creative energies blocked, scattered, or stalled. On the flip side, stopping and looking don’t mean much if we don’t finally go. We can sit with God all day, or muse about all the possibilities in the next 24 hours, but if we don’t get up and actually cross over, nothing will happen. So after some moments of stopping and looking, we are called to go into our day.
Obedience is the third vow we make to the creative and aware life and the one that equates with “go.” The root meaning of the word obey is to hear or to listen. Think of a parent saying, “Listen to me!” Obedience is expected to follow. We go to, or obey, the callings of the day which we have discerned through our time with God. We obey the call to prayer, and to service, to family and to friends, to the work that requires our attention, that gives us our livelihood, even obeying that call to wash the dishes. The difference is that we are not going in a hurry; we are not falling “behinder.” We are going with awareness to each task, inviting the Spirit along the way, and paying more attention to the gifts that surround us. For all of us who create, in whatever way that might be, we become obedient, again and again, to that which gives us life, to the creative world. Whether it’s painting, photography, writing, quilting, gardening, designing, woodworking, whatever, obedience is the “go” that gets us to that work. Truly, if the world needs anything at this particular time, it needs acts of beauty, of love, of hope that can arise from the work we do.
With going/obedience in mind, I invite you to consider these questions with holy curiosity:
- How are you being invited to listen more closely to the call of your creative life?
- Can you identify any resistance to the call and invite that resistance into conversation, listening to it, blessing it, and asking it to trust your call?
Loving and compassionate Creator, we yearn to be obedient to your call to create and to be aware of the gift of Life. This broken world is in so much need of light and beauty, song and dance, paintings and photos, poetry and prose that come from a heart aligned with yours. We believe with all humility that you have called us to create in imitation of you, the Great Creator. Send your Holy Spirit upon us to embolden us and to make us ever faithful to this call. May it be so.
Stop. Look. Go. // Stability. Conversion. Obedience. These are the practices and the vows we are invited to embrace to live our days with thoughtful attention and with joy. May God the Creator take each of us by the hand and heart and lead us forward. Blessings as you go ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmailcom.
“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,”
stated the cross-stitched message
framed on a wall in the doctor’s office
of my childhood.
How often in the many seasons
since then have I recalled
that strange bit of wisdom
while tripping over myself,
arms filled with the day’s work,
on the way to my car.
How often have those words
returned to me when I have awakened
to immediacy and rushed into the precious
minutes of a new morning only
to realize later that I missed
the rising sun or the faithful
early praise of the cardinal.
“Get up, get up. Get going.”
How often have I scurried
at the voice of another’s agenda,
failing to heed the one
that gives life to me? To this world?
Yet what is there of meaning
in the hurry? What happens
to the eyes that hear and ears
that see in the white-water rush
of the day? What happens
to the longing of the heart
and the joy of being?
The world would sweep us along
like so many crumbs on a broom
but I want something more. I
want to be anchored to the Source
of All Being, I want to hear the gentle
whisper of the Spirit that guides me
toward joy, I want to know where
I am going before I say “yes.”
© Rosemary McMahan
2 thoughts on ““Going” on the Prayer Path”
Beautiful as ever, Rosemary. I also remember those words from my youth. straight out of my mother’s mouth and into my little head.
I was always fascinated by the wording! A big lesson.