Everybody’s busybusybusy, challenged by the sheer multitude of people and concerns that are vying for our attention and effort. It’s a struggle to keep the important things “front and center” and in focus. But that’s a struggle that always lies at the heart of the spiritual journey: choosing what to give ourselves to.
My days lately have been preoccupied with readying my house for sale, staying in touch with family, and generally getting things done that need to be done to move things forward. I’m making minor repairs, and even beginning to pack in advance for the move, although the house won’t be listed for another week and I don’t yet have another place to go. But it feels like things are meant to move quickly over the winter, when I’ll also have the care of Mother full-time. So I need to get ready. Nor do I want to miss the holidays. As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas follows I’ll be celebrating differently this year — more simply than in the past: more focused on family, more peaceful, and (I hope) filled more with the remembrance and the meaning of what we celebrate than with the mechanics of celebrating.
Beyond all of this there’s something else that feels important to me: the book that I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I’ve put other projects aside to focus on this large one. It’s been slowly taking shape in my mind and continues to call me to pay attention, to work out the plot and the questions and to understand the characters fully enough to begin to tell the story. I’ve been doing research but not yet putting pen to paper. In spite of everything else that threatens to derail me from this, I need to keep it alive so I can learn whether I actually can do this thing that keeps tugging at me, by simply doing it. Only then will I really know whether it’s the new call of God on my life or not.
So that’s how my spiritual life is flowing these days. I’m feeling both the outward pull of practical needs and the inner pull of important desires. I feel the desires of my family that I move closer to them, and my own need to “get my house in order” (in both the physical and the economic sense). I feel the desire of my inner self (so long buried and unheeded) to create something beautiful and meaningful, and of a heart that wants to be faithful to the disciplines that keep me open to God.
I want to do it all. It’s all important to me. But not everything is of the same importance. So how do we sort out, from the myriad things that claim our attention and effort, the few things we actually need to do? You may say to me, only one thing is necessary: to love God. But there are many ways to love God, many concrete ways to honor God with our life.
I remember how Jesus said to Martha that not all things are necessary, that her sister Mary was keeping faith with the one thing necessary for her to do on that day, in that moment, and that she (Martha) should do the same (Luke 10:38-42). So moment to moment I look for the one necessary thing to give myself to at that time, and that’s how I’m moving through the days. It’s a process of continual discernment, with an ear constantly listening for the Spirit’s guidance. I may still get it wrong, get lost in the unimportant, or misread the needs of the moment. I know I waste more time than I should. But I live by grace, so I trust that, if my intention and desires are right, God will prevail and bring me to a good place in the end, even in spite of myself.
I pray that God may give us all the wisdom to recognize and the will to work toward, the genuinely important few things that matter most. Then I believe we’ll be able to live each day knowing we’ve spent our life as wisely as possible, doing the best we can.
May the abundant blessing of the Holy One be with you, and may you and yours have a happy, loving Thanksgiving!