Saturday, January 19, 2008

Paying Attention

If you have ever played with a Rubik’s Cube, you know how fascinating and annoying they can be. You twist and turn, hoping to figure out how to line up all the colors. Some of my friends are able to decipher the proper turns in no time. I, on the other hand, have yet to make one of these toys work. But it doesn’t stop me from playing with one!

In many respects, I’d say that my new set of instructions to “pay attention” feels a little bit like fooling around with a Rubik’s cube. “Pay attention” has led to a lot of inquiry about all kinds of things, not the least of which is God and my relationship to God, and how that relationship manifests itself in all aspects of my life.

Like the hymns that would haunt me incessantly, I find myself pondering the words of the Book of Common Prayer at times when I really should be deciding if I have time to hit Publix when I pick up the laundry. I think about the richness of the language as if they were the reds, blues, greens of the Rubik’s cube. I find myself studying the phrases we say, such as this one which is part of the closing prayer:

“Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love
and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart”.
For me, there’s a lot in that statement!

First off is the idea that now that we’ve spent an hour together in common worship and receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, it’s time to take what has been given to us…from the lessons read, the sermon preached, the spiritual food, etc…and go out there into the big, bad world, as peaceful beings and live out our lives and go into our workplaces to do God’s will. How do we do that? Through “strength and courage”.
I know, speaking only as an authority on my own heart and conscience, I feel that is a very tall order! To do God’s will, I think, means to be good to people, and treat them the way you’d want to be treated. Do I do that all the time? No. Sometimes, I fall short. Sometimes, I get pissed off. But generally, I do try to treat all people with the respect and love I would like to see offered back to me. As the saying goes in Buddhism, “Be the light you wish to see in the world”.

Ah, yes: light. I’ve paid close attention, too, to how often there are references in the Biblical readings that draw the distinction between lightness and darkness. The first Sunday in Advent had a reading from Romans where the talk is of putting on “an armor of light” and leaving the darkness behind. I can feel my brain trying to arrange the blocks of my Rubik’s cube as I ponder all that this statement could mean and what it has meant for me! I have made a conscious effort to move out of darkness and into the light. And by doing so, I have sensed a change in my approach to the world. If I trust, and allow myself to journey along a path toward a light as bright as the eastern star, and accept that the light itself is like armor, I feel a helluva lot better than when I brood, and drape myself in the beliefs that have kept me in darkness for years and years. I can accept love, and I can give it back to others. And that certainly makes my job as a massage therapist much easier.

OK, great: but this is all a bunch of Christian blah blah blah, right? Well, my belief system is Christ-centered, yeah. But really, that gets to another point: I am afraid human beings have screwed up on God. “Christianity” and “Christian principles” are not bad; its how some of God’s fan club have gone about practicing them (or not!) that has made it all seem like blah blah blah. It is empty rhetoric if somebody mouths the words in a church on Sunday, and then heads out into the world and uses those words to suppress other people, or hold themselves out there as the moral superior to everyone else (the whole “Believe in Jesus or you’re going to hell!”) I don’t think people have to accept Christ as savior in order to do the basic of living a life that is full of lightness, and treating people right. I can’t speak for atheists or agnostics, but I would say that I think it’s easier to achieve a life of love, light and laughter, if you recognize that there is a “something” of universal nature and infinite proportions that is out there keeping the wick lit on the candle for us to find our way home.

Even without practicing any religion, I find that in alternative health fields, such as massage therapy, the basic idea of “treat people with love and respect the same way you’d want to be treated” informs much of the work. Couple this with the mindfulness, recognizing the interconnectedness of all things in the world, and you have a system of being that is bringing you back to a relationship with a “higher conscience”.

I doubt that I will ever get all the colors to match up in my Rubik’s cube as I ponder and pay attention to things in the world and the words I say on a Sunday and what they mean and how to apply them in my life. But then, I never have gotten one of those cubes to come all together before, and that doesn’t stop me from playing!

1 comment:

MCG said...

The words are important and we should pay attention to them and take them out into the world after we leave church. I think it does happen without us even knowing it. I have seen several things happen this year already.

Good thoughts, SCG