I woke this morning to a beautiful sunrise over the lake; my thoughts were lucid, focused on God. The natural beauty of creation is a gateway to my time of contemplation. My prayer bell started and I slipped into a calm, rest-filled silence, soaking up the Divine presence through my consent to the action and presence of God within me. The time passed quickly and before I realized it, I had prayed through my allotted morning prayer time when the bell rang signaling my daily office was at an end. I walked downstairs to start my day filled with an awareness of God’s presence in everything.
If only that were true! There are times when that has been true. But if I am honest with myself, these times are more the exception than the rule. I sometimes idealize contemplation, as if it were something to be emulated from stain glassed or plaster casted saints. I love these works of art, and they remind me that a saint is “someone who has the light of Christ shining through them” as my old priest would say. But they are the ideal. The real feels more like my daily life, filled with work and family obligations that constantly tug at my attention. Another priest once said, “I used to think the distractions in my life kept me from my work, till I realized the distractions are my real work.” How true, and how often I forget. In some way I am set up to fail at contemplation, it isn’t something I “succeed” at. Rather, according to Richard Rohr, whatever invites me to love and suffering is a practice of contemplation. Failure is a wonderful teacher, if only it has taught me that all that matters really is the return to trusting in the benevolent presence that is always ready to receive me.
I wish everyone a rich and blessed season of Lent, and that new spaces of interior freedom are opened to you, especially in the midst of love, suffering, and endless distraction.
Jesse Fox, Ph.D.
Co-Coordinator, Contemplative Outreach of Central Florida
— reprinted from COCFL News