It’s a new month, and many of us wait until the new year to create resolutions – essentially commitments to a new way of living. If you’re like me, you commit each Jan. 1st to drink less, eat less, and lose weight. I usually spend the holidays gathering with lots of people – our children, grandchildren, Chicago southsiders, twenty-year book club friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, in-laws, dozens of nieces and nephews, co-workers, running friends, fun couples, new acquantances – all bearing bottles of wine, delicious dips, fresh-baked goodies, and delectable appetizers. Hence, my annual new year’s resolution is to take off 5-8 holiday pounds and be healthy.
None of that is happening this year.
So I opted for a December 1st resolution this year. It’s the third day of Advent, and I opened a tiny little book – Sacred Space – written by the Irish Jesuits. The book is designed to lead readers through reflections for Advent 2020. The passages started two days ago, but I was not on top of my December One game on Sunday. I was obsessed with rearranging furniture in an effort to create a new life.
Today, my plan is develop a habit of beginning my day with inspirational reading. There’s no time limit or end goal other than to deepen my relationship with God and the world. I don’t know about you, but this Covid thing has left me lost, confused, uncertain, and unsure of myself. When I’m invited somewhere, The Clash lyrics “Should I Stay or Should I Go” play in my head. I’m not sure what I’m doing or if what I’m doing is something I should be doing. I know I’m safe and keeping others safe by my actions. I wear a mask, and I carry it when I walk outside and cross the street to avoid being within six feet of others, but there is always a hint of doubt. Should I have used that bathroom at the Dunes?
In seeking groundedness, I opened Sacred Space and got a glimpse of it. The passages are super short – perfect for people on the go. I’m not on the go, but I used to be. As I settled in with my coffee and warm blanket, I was struck by the few paragraphs committed to Nov. 29th, so I flipped to Nov. 30 and today – Dec. 1. Like a good student, I am caught up.
Being caught up does not mean transformed. I struggle with the simple ponderings in the text. For example, the readings are followed by a section called “Conversation” which challenge me to imagine Jesus sitting next to me. What would I say to him? So I turned to the chair next to me (bear with me here), and I pretended he was a patient, listening friend. I was completely tongue-tied. This does not happen to me very often. Believe me. My synapses fire pretty quickly, and for three years, I’ve been practicing pausing before I speak. (I need more practice.)
My gut instinct was to feel completely unworthy of having the Lord in my living room. (I really got into this exercise.) I was in awe of Him and could not speak.
So I got up, emptied the dishwasher, made my bed, sorted a load of laundry, and thought about the conversation that did not happen. Then it hit me. He’s always there – always. And I bet it bums him out that I feel so unworthy. I had twelve years of Catholic education in the late sixties and thoughout the seventies, and we were taught that Jesus is our friend. How did that not sink in? I think I just doubted it because there is no way this guy who gave up his life would want to hang around me.
I have always turned to my family and friends for support, understanding, guidance, and love. They have kept me from being untethered. This year, we don’t get to spend much time with our loved ones, but they are always there for us. Many of us have a deeper understanding of the value of connection during this time of Covid. The Jesuits write that one definition of spirituality is “the art of making connections” (Sacred Space).
I’m striving to connect to what matters most – my faith along with my family, friends, nature and the beauty and needs of humanity. I’m hoping I can do that more through my December 1st resolution and through you. Like the Little Drummer Boy, I genuinely feel like I have nothing to offer. I’m not a great, profound writer, but for some reason, it fills my cup, at least temporarily while I’m in the Zen zone, a state of mind that is most often fleeting.
I’ve been awol for months, and I’m not sure where I’ve been. I’d like to emerge from 2020 feeling closer to God and to my vocation, my purpose for being here.