Friday, March 09, 2007

Time enough

A second basic teresian [St. Teresa of Avila] principle is that growth in prayer does not depend on a person’s immediate situation. We tend to suppose that if only we could find an ideal community, be it marital or religious or clerical, if only we could locate in another setting, if only we had a different superior or set of associates, if only we had more money (or less), we would skyrocket in prayer. Not so, says the foundress, for ‘the time is always propitious for God to grant His great favours to those who truly serve him’.”

“While St. Teresa was well acquainted with methods of meditation and wished her young nuns to be instructed in them, she emphatically insisted that the primary need for beginners is not to find the ideal method but to do God’s will from moment to moment throughout the day.”

~Fr. T. Dubay, The Fire Within

Bedtime for Gabriel has the potential to be an enjoyable parenting interlude–splashing in the bath, putting on his pj’s, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, nursing him peacefully off to sleep, and then slipping downstairs for some evening quiet time. Bedtime also has the potential to be somewhat agonizing. If bath time ends in tears for whatever reason, putting on baby’s pj’s seems more like medieval torture than dressing. If he’s so upset from putting on his pj’s, reading a book just prolongs the agony, so we go straight to nursing, even though he’s a bit hyper. Sometimes this brings on the blessed calm of baby sleep; sometimes it doesn’t. Last night we nursed, read books, nursed, crawled around on the floor, sang songs, nursed, watched cars out the window, nursed again, watched the cars a little bit more, and finally nursed to sleep. That whole process took about two hours, I think. I couldn’t really bear to look at the clock and think about the precious “me time” that seemed to be slipping away.

Tonight Gabriel fell asleep in my arms while I was sitting on the floor in his bedroom, surrounded by the books I was attempting (not very successfully) to get him to read and all the little stuffed animals he found much more interesting than the books. I was far from the laptop and all the enticing blogs I love to read and all the library books I’m browsing through. Usually this would drive me, a perpetually-doing-or-thinking-something type of person, pretty crazy. But sitting there in the dim light, looking down upon Gabriel’s peaceful sleeping face, it occurred to me that pretty soon I wouldn’t be able to hold him in my arms as he goes to sleep–he’s already getting so big. There is time enough, I reflected, for books and blogs and to-do’s; Gabriel’s baby days are here only for a relatively short moment and I really ought to appreciate them more.

Time enough. The life of a new mom is supposedly turned-upside-down-and-inside-out crazy; I admit I have lamented this often, particularly regarding my inability to find quiet time to meditate and pray, as I have adjusted to being on call for all the needs of another little person 24-7. I brought this up to Michael (again) after a particularly difficult couple of days, and he reminded me (again) of the quotes above from Fire Within. To me, they suggest that God always provides the time we need to grow close to Him in prayer; he always provides exactly those blessings and joys, as well as those crosses and the struggles, that we need to grow in intimacy with Him. All that remains for us is to embrace them and seek His will in them. Although I think I already grasped this intellectually, it is an entirely new perspective with which to orient my heart’s response to the events of my day-to-day life.

A few examples: I find it particularly difficult to drag myself out of my warm bed to walk the halls with Gabriel when he’s fidgety and doesn’t want to sleep; rather than just gritting my teeth and bearing it, it occurred to me that perhaps someone needed some prayers right then and God was using my little wiggler to get me up and praying. So the other night we prayed the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary as we roamed through the quiet house. Another struggle I’ve been facing is going to Mass on Sundays: it is no longer the quiet, insight-filled hour that it used to be pre-baby. But I realized that God designed this whole motherhood thing and so He probably would be quite happy with me offering my mere presence with Gabriel (distracted though it may be) as my worship in the liturgy. The funny thing is when I did this and stopped worrying about what I was or was not “getting out of” Mass, I found that God allowed the whole experience to actually become much more peaceful and prayerful.

I think for much of my life I’ve been in a hurry to finish whatever it is I’m doing so I can go on to the next thing. The near future has always distracted me from immersing myself in the present moment; such preoccupation impoverishes everything, whether it be work, study, recreation, or time spent with others. I once glanced through a book called The Sacrament of the Present Moment–the title is all I remember now, but even that is significant. If I am able to live in each moment as though it were an outward sign of God, of His presence, and His will, there will certainly be time enough.

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