It has been a long time since I was home sick for a week. I talk a good line about trying to balance an active and a contemplative spirituality in my life, and I really do try, but there is a distinction between what I normally do and the enforced passivity of the sickroom. Settling myself in a chair, lighting a candle, trying to still my soul, reaching in or out or down or up or in whatever “direction” I seek for God — all of these actions are still within my control (even if I am trying to learn to let that control go).
But waiting, the waiting of being tired and weak, of resting because it is all you can do, of gazing out the window and watching the bare trees turn green — that is a different order of discipline. It strips life down to simple things: food and cups of tea, the pages of a good book, dogs who curl up on one’s feet, and the kindness of people who offer to come and help. It separates me from my work, from all work apart from wonder: wonder at the beauty all around, which I so rarely stop to see, really to see, not as I walk by it and marvel, but as I sit still and watch it grow around me. It shows me I can be tangential, and that is all right.
I would not want this to go on forever, but I suspect that it is showing me something real. If I could keep this simplicity of gaze, I would bring to the tasks of my every day a clear sense of what was needed, and what was simply gravy. It is a way of getting myself out of view, at least as an object, of seeing the abundance of what is given, rather than what is sought. It is enough.
Next week, we will enter the Passion of Christ. Passion, patience, passive: all have the same root: to suffer. It is the week that Christ, who framed the world in in hands, became most small, allowed himself to be done to — not the voluntary rest of sabbath, but the involuntary halt of genuine weakness, to go not where he wanted, but where he was taken. We — most of us — fear those places, those times in our lives, but they, too, are places Christ has gone before. We will find him there, if we seek him. That, too, is mercy.