Florence Miller sends this reflection...
We are coming to the end of the Lenten time. I began the 40 days with my usual heart/head turning to the obligatory self-examination. I was encouraged early in life to appreciate the ‘hair shirt’ approach to self improvement -a thorough evaluation is an invigorating thing! I have loved the inward gaze and the quiet yearnings that solemnity brings. I have often done the ‘ giving up’ and then, in recent years, I curved toward the ‘doing something’ – of course something sacrificial but edifying. Yes, Lenten devotions can often indeed confront and challenge one’s spiritual growing up and out.
But, this year I came to a new place and a new devotion. It is the idea of Deep Rest. Deep Rest as spiritual devotion. I heard the phrase from Heather who suggested that a mutual friend may need deep rest in the face of a deep exhaustion. It rang like a bell in my mind – DEEP REST!
Later, at home, tired and dispirited I went to my bed for a moment to sit down with a cup of tea. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to serve anyone or any good cause or even tidy up or answer the phone or even comb my hair. I just wanted an end to my anxiousness, and not to evaluate my ‘self’ which would, as usual, result in evaluating all of the known world! And not to do a single good deed! I was feeling separate, apart, not wanting to go into any gathering of humans mulling about in church or at a meeting or even to supper at a new little restaurant to test the fare and talk of books or politics.
I sighed, leaned back on the pillow and thought “Here I am, God, just as I am”. The pillow was divine and cradled my head like a cloud. I pulled the comforter up. “Here I am God – no searches, no answers, no penitence, no grand nor petty purpose, just me, here. I rest in you. In rest, I listen. In rest, I experience your love and tolerance and humor”. Heaven.
Over a few days I came to the understanding that a deep breath, pause, and listening is a devotion I have overlooked and I believe many of us do. We may not realize that resting with the spirit of God with open heart and mind is a potent recompense, atonement and sustenance. We may even be suspicious of it, reject it. We may not know that rest in God's love gives strength and understanding. I meditate regularly but that is somehow purposeful. It is restful yet certainly a discipline. Deep Rest is letting go. Letting go into a loving, comforting presence. Deep Rest blesses.
Now, my puppy crawls up beside me. He nestles. Okay little furry animal creature, nestle in. You can feel my breathing, hear my stomach humming, smell the perfume of skin, hear the drum beat of my heart. Rest. Is my body the reassuring presence of life or God to you, puppy companion?
It is nearly spring - I have the urge to fling myself down on the new grass and stretch out on the earth and cling to it and mash myself against it, like my puppy does. There are things going on under there. The roots are growing, life present and stirring, rocks are warming in their slow, slow molecular existence and far below is the boiling heart of the earth humming like a furnace. It is Life.
As Easter comes will I resurrect to Presence? Can I? May I?
My pup and I will Rest. I’ll feed you, puppy, and myself, and avoid the crowds and love one thing at a time. Morning. Puppy. Breakfast. God. Jesus. Life.
I'll end with this poem by Lee Rudolph which was on the Writer's Almanac a while ago:
Little Prayer in November
That I am alive, I thank
no one in particular;
and yet am thankful, mostly,
although I frame no prayer
but this one: Creator
Spirit, as you have come,
come again, even in November,
on these short days, fogbound.