At 6:45 this morning, my bleary eyes blinked open with the immediate, and alarming recognition that I was a full hour behind schedule. Normally, I can trust the rhythms knit into my body through several decades of a work schedule, and early morning child-care to deliver a prompt/daily wake up call. Last night, those rhythms were disrupted by a host of cold symptoms named after several of Snow White’s diminutive friends: Sneezy, Drippy, and Achy. Together, this cast of characters, shook me awake at three in the morning and kept me awake until around five, when I drifted back into a fitful sleep. An hour and forty-five minutes later, my wife arrived with a handful of cold medications, and a cup of coffee. Together, serenaded by our youngest daughter’s violin practice, we worked frenetically to get breakfasts, lunches, and children out the door.
Our first pre-work stop involved a before-school parent-teacher’s conference at Annalise’s high school. My wife and I prayed our usual morning offering together on the way. Fortunately, the conference was as positive as a second cup of coffee for me. Before we parted ways, Lisa and I traded administrative information back and forth, wished each other well, and hugged a heart-felt/germless goodbye in the parking lot. As I pulled out of the school driveway, a well-dressed man in a very nice car, appeared to be amused by my makeshift baby-blanket napkin tucked into my neck to protect my tie. With an already half eaten banana in hand, I waved, “Good Day” to him, as I proceeded to eat my time-saving-mobile breakfast the same way I have eaten it everyday for the last seventeen years.
Once at work, I settled into my routine of consecutive hourly appointments until it was time to leave at 7:00pm. When I got home, I discovered that Lisa had cleaved her workday in two so that she could schlep John Harry to soccer practice, get everybody fed, and start the Halloween pumpkin carving process. As I stepped through the door, she handed off the squash-sculpting tools, donned her work clothes, and headed back out to finish up the tasks that awaited her back at the office.
After gutting two pumpkins, and carving a third, I got my youngest settled into bed, said prayers with her, and came back downstairs to write. As I sit at this keyboard, I am aware that there are several calls cued up in my voicemail that will have to wait to be returned until tomorrow morning. I am also aware that, while the ink from this article dries, dishes from two meals will have to be washed and dried. As I conclude, I expect Lisa to return around 11:00pm, at which time I will down a vile of green cold medicine, and lay down next to her.
It was in the midst of this booming, banging, buzzing day that I sat down to contemplate this Sunday’s readings. The first and third selections revolved around the heart of Judeo-Christian law (Deuteronomy 6: 2-6; Mark 12: 28b-34). In these readings we were admonished to love God with all our heart, and to reflect that love in our care for neighbors.
At an earlier time in my life, I used to equate loving God with my whole heart as a thing I did when I could escape the clanging noise of my life, and book some time in a retreat house. Back in those days, spirituality was like visiting a church in a busy urban setting. From a safe, and contained distance inside, one could hear the hustle and the bustle of the city, with its sirens and honking horns on the outside. Since those days, the addition of a wife and kids has necessitated a shift in my outlook. Contemplation is not found apart from life, but smack in the middle of it…like a morning offering lifted up in the make-shift chapel of a humble 2002 sedan on the way to work. Holiness, and encounters with God cannot wait for the retreat house. They must be found through engagement with the booming, banging, buzzing world of schedules, and rides, and work, and head colds, and the 10,000 things that beckon us to stretch beyond ourselves toward soul-satisfying self-donation. What are the touchstones and rituals tucked into the frenetic days of your life that keep you on The Pathway?