As you read this, I will be off on summer vacation, a much-needed rest after a challenging year. I have planned for myself a time and space that will, I think, allow me to reflect, to rest, to get out of my mind a bit and into my muscles (such as they are), to turn over the experiences of the last year in a way that will, I hope, leave me better integrated as a human being, more able to use them.
Being a priest is a strange kind of work. Every day, we are exposed to the kind of story that invites us to open our eyes — to live more deeply, to rely more fully on God (and less on ourselves), to become more aware of our own short-comings, and of the immense grace that is the patience and forgiveness of the people in our lives. But the pace of the work itself often prevents us from living into our own experiences. As we, like you, rush from one meeting to another, from home to soccer practice to grocery store, to work and back again, all that rich humanity can get pushed into a storeroom in our minds, where it gathers dust and does our soul no good at all.
There is a Christian practice called lectio divina, holy reading, in which you read a short passage (usually from Scripture), find a word or phrase in it that seems to invite your attentiveness, and then mull on that word, turning it over in your mind, praying on it, letting it work its way through your life. The medieval monastics compared it to a cow, chewing its cud: first you chew the Word in your mouth, then it enters your stomach, then you chew it again; only then is it able to nourish your soul.
I think God invites us to digest our lives that way: to ruminate on them until our experiences become able to sustain our growth more and more into Christ, and into our own deep humanity. That’s why we’re not supposed to work on the sabbath; work is so much easier than soul-work, easier than thinking through the awkward moment, the argument, the time we were caught short, the time of great joy, the sudden, unexpected release.
There are many ways to do this: jogging, fishing, hiking, reading, journaling, quilting, gardening…There is no one right way. The important thing is to engage the work. When God became a human being, God forged a link between God’s divine life and ours, in the person of Jesus Christ. We can, none of us, be God. But we can all grow into our full humanity, the place where our human being rests in that of Christ. When we are most fully ourselves, then we are most fully in God.
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.