Rhythm and the Grateful
Recently, I had a rare 24 hours to myself. I fully intended to read three self-help books, meditate for at least two hours and catch up on much-needed sleep.
But, before I started my first book, I put on a load of laundry. And when I went to transfer it to the dryer, I found clothes in need of folding. And when I put the clothes away, I found a disaster in my closet. As I cleaned, I found 7 sippy cups under my bed. When I went to put the sippy cups in the dishwasher, I saw that it was full and needed to be washed. Then, I noticed the counter was dirty, so I cleaned it, along with the rest of the kitchen and the dining room table. And the chairs. And the floors. And maybe a window or two. Nine hours later, I was ready to start reading. So I opened my book and was asleep three pages in.
I drifted off feeling like I’d completely blown my alone time. No journaling, no accomplished step work, no extensive prayer and meditation.
In the midst of my regret the next morning, I sensed my Higher Power telling me, “Chris- this is living.”
I often misunderstand being with God. It’s not about waiting for a good stack of time to power through books, attend sixteen meetings or escape on an extended meditation retreat. As it turns out, life is rarely stints in treatment or reading books or even long periods of silence. Life is all the space in between. It’s the frustrating dog accidents or navigating tough relationships. It’s the routine of buying groceries and returning calls and paying bills or going to work.
And this life, this routine, this unloading the dishwasher and taking time to listen to those we encounter can all be incredible avenues to meet with the Divine.
Because we’re a behaviorally based society, it’s easy to think we must perform to be loved—praying daily, going out on 12 step calls and being of service 24/7. We are tempted to believe we must perform even in our connection with our Higher Power. It’s a hard shift to learn that we are valued not for what we do, but for who we are. And we’re reminded of who we are as we learn to be open to the Divine presence everywhere we go.
Maybe we miss out on connecting with God because we see the spiritual aspect of recovery as another thing we need to fit into our day, as if it’s separate from the various tasks in which we engage.
Why do I think I can’t talk to God while I’m doing laundry? What makes me think going to work keeps me from engaging with my Higher Power? Turning our lives over to the care of a God of our understanding is a continuous, daily action, not something we must do alone in a closet.
There are times we DO need to unplug and make time for stillness, silence, and meditation. But connection with the Divine doesn’t end when we get up from our quiet, sacred space.
The amazing truth is that our spiritual recovery can happen anywhere and in the midst of any circumstance. Yes, dinner needs to be made and our friends still need support. Our employers expect us to show up to work. But this work is not opposed to our spiritual path—this is often what our spiritual path is made of.
The rhythm of life offers constant opportunities to open ourselves up to the new and the transformative love of God even in the midst of the mundane.
Yesterday, I spent nine hours picking up toys which will end up on the floor tomorrow. I spent nine hours windexing handprints I know will come right back. But I also spent nine hours with my Higher Power, allowing this God to give me insight into my life, comfort for my pain and love for those around me.
Housework or maintaining friendships or going to meetings gives us the opportunity to be, even as we’re doing. And as we live day in and day out, we learn how to be present to the Love that is present to us.
-Chris Gibson, MDiv