Hidden In The Moment
Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.
Is it really true that what we learned in kindergarten, or at the kitchen table, is enough to carry us through life? Robert Fulghum seems to think so. He tells us that for many years, when spring comes round, he attempts to rewrite his personal statement of beliefs. Wisdom, he says, was never high on the academic mountain in graduate school. Strangely though, there in the sand pile of Sunday school, he learned what he needed to know for life. Here are some of the things Fulghum learned.
Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Don’t take things that are not yours.
Know how to say you’re sorry.
Take a nap every afternoon.1
Here is one of my favorites: “When you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together.” Lastly, he muses on what a better world this would be if the whole world would have milk and cookies around three o’clock every afternoon and then lie down on a blanket for a nap.
What Better Time
Reading this, and having been a few years away from kindergarten myself, prompts me to meditate on my own everyday beliefs. What better time than Lent and springtime to compose one’s own beliefs, together with all the different lessons life has taught one along the way. To my surprise, when I attempted to do this, I found that I had more guidelines than space would allow. The following is a sample:
At least twice a day, stop and really listen to someone. What a kind and grace-filled gesture for the other person. The listener also gets changed.
From time to time, take a moment to read what is written on your heart. The Bible says
there is something there. On the strength of this, you will be able to walk far.
Make a decision not to worry. If there is something that really needs worrying, there are enough people available for the task. I once had a friend, who stopped worrying once she learned that someone else had taken on the worry. You can also put your worries into the hands of one of your favorite saints. This is their task, now. St. Teresa said that she never asked St. Joseph for a favor he did not grant. St Therese, the Little Flower, spends her heaven doing good on earth.
Every now and then, write down your inspirations in a little book. At a later date, reading these will be a source of encouragement. You will even see the pattern and continuity in your life. Annie Dillard said that how we live this day is how we live our lives.
Return books on time. If late, pay the dues. Chalk it up as a donation and feel good about yourself.
At least once a day, find a piece of sky where you can look up and forget all the difficult things in life. The heart needs this.
Let go of defenses. We were made for greater things.
“Believe that good can come out of anything that happens. Some people call this hope. (Joan Chittister)
“Make visible that which, without you, will never be seen.” (Robert Bresson)
Pray for the other as if his or her cause were your own.
Most of all, take time to encourage someone. Be the rainbow they need at the moment.
One may ask what all this has to do with prayer or contemplation, or the living out of the spiritual life. In response, we can only say that, up until Vatican II, we generally had the impression that the human spirit could only think and talk about God. But with the coming of the Council, and especially in the writings of Karl Rahner, S.J., we have come to know that our God is a God Who is very near, and a God we meet in the midst of every day.
It is always possible that someone may never have had the experience of love or deep happiness. But, as Rahner points out, it is impossible for anyone not to have a basic experience of God, even though the person may not be aware of it. As Michael Skelley cites in his commentary on the writings of Karl Rahner, “the experience of God lies hidden within every human experience.”2 To emphasize, the experience of God is not just another experience alongside other experiences. It is different. It is hidden in all those truly human experiences. This means that we cannot help experiencing God, however dimly.
It Is For All Of Us
There are other aspects of this phenomenon. Sometimes we may feel called to pray for another but do not know exactly just how to pray. Perhaps, the best thing we can do at these times is to pray that the other person will become aware of their experience of God. The experience and awareness will take care of what is needed. I have seen this happen. Furthermore, mysticism is not reserved just for the saints like St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross or St. Therese of Lisieux. It is for all of us. Skelley points out that “more than education about God, we need direction to God.”3
It is important to mention here that while it is easy to see positive experiences, (such as a sunset, the birth of a child or a field of grain at harvest time), as experiences of God, other experiences (such as loss, isolation and loneliness) can also be experiences of God. There are times when God is hidden in pain and darkness, even “when the lights shining over the tiny island of our ordinary life are extinguished.”4 Whenever we go beyond ourselves, we experience God, even in those small events recounted in our opening remarks. We forget that the events need not have the guise of religion or come with flashing lights. Ours is a God who is always very near, and who continues to speak to us in all that happens.
1Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten (New York: Villiard Books, 1990) pp. 6,7.
2 Michael Skelley, S.J., The Liturgy of the World: Karl Rahner’s Theology of Worship (Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991) p.70.
3 Ibid., p.79.
4 Ibid., p.80.
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