And as the tradition of sacrificing for 40 days goes, some of us have given up things like screen time, cursing, or sugary substances and others of us are doing things for the greater good like extra chores or writing letters of gratitude.
So it was yesterday that I gathered my precocious three-year old and headed to church for a monthly women's circle experience. I love having a hot cup of coffee, seeing my fellow "mom friends" and finding ways to engage in our community.
But this time, different than usual, we had a guest. A Jesuit. Which shouldn't seem odd given that we're Catholic and that Jesuits come in and out of the parish and school all of the time. But what was odd...was just how amazing that he was.
Most of us don't know the tradition of the Jesuits...how nearly 500 years ago, a Spanish soldier, St. Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits and established the Society of Jesus after nearly dying on the battlefield. His cry to those who followed was to find God in all things. His practice was to impart the Daily Examen...a meditation and reflection on where the divine exists in the ordinary.
And so, the first thing that our Jesuit speaker did was to sit his cup of dark roast coffee on the table and praise God both for the gift of caffeine and the divine peanut buster parfait he indulged in the night before...Amen, brother, amen. Clearly, he hadn't given up sweets for Lent. Thank the Lord.
Next, he shared a Jesuit site called "Moved to Greater Love" that provides a daily meditation to be used throughout the Lenten season.
And this is the part that got me.
He didn't read a scriptural passage. He shared a poem by Mary Oliver, one of my all-time favorite writers.
Here it is...
The Place I Want To Get Back To
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
and first light
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me
they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting
on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;
and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way
I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years
I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
After meditating on Mary Oliver's words, he asked us to consider the power and importance of lingering in awe, in the moment....moment by moment. The truth is that we never do it. We feel guilty if we linger...lazy almost, as if we should be focused on our plans and all of our to-do's. The idea that staring into the nothingness of our thoughts, of our heart's desires, of our wonderings is a waste of time. And yet, we all know that when we focus exclusively on our goals, objectives, plans for the day, we're never really satisfied, never completely filled, we're always longing to be back in that place where we could just "be."
And what is wrong with just being....being caught up in the moment, being carried away by the feeling, being enraptured by the color, the sound, the joy, the mystery, the awe.
And this our speaker said is where God resides. It seems as though the experiences of feeling God is such a mystery that it's really, only, remotely knowable when we empty ourselves to be available to the moment. And most of the time, we're never really available...too many other things get in the way.
But as you take care to engage in your day, you might ask yourself, when was I truly in awe today? When was I surprised? When did I let my guard down and allow my heart to feel? When was I filled? When did I experience God?
It makes the idea of a Lenten journey far more engaging than, "how did it go giving up chocolate or potato chips?"
And so, as I left the meeting, I couldn't get Mary Oliver's words out of my head:
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.
Because really, who knows when, if ever, the moment may come again.