It was worn, tested, tried, and true. I repeated it probably millions of times over those earlier years when I first fell in love with the spiritual discipline of silence, of making room for God to move in ways that involved only clearing my mind, cultivating a space, and ushering in a countercultural reverence for stopping when the world refused to stand still.
But abide, my second prayer word that I adopted only a few years ago, seemed to signal real growth and maturity. Instead of so presumptuously grasping for God or even sagely realizing it is God who grasps for us, abide was the mere act of being in God’s presence or letting God’s presence wash over me. I was proud of the attention, discipline, and even inaction it signaled, the way it chafed against a busy world, busy lives, a busy me.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve never really been able to get my mind around this word, why I’m not so good at abiding, or even praying about it.
I confess that recently my abiding has become dusty and decrepit, just like my centering prayer practice, beholden and bent to the cluttering of my life in which I’ve allowed little space for anything other than tasks and work and running–little space for silence, breath, let alone God.
But there have been healthcare battles to fight, I rage in earnest! There have been surgeries, and new jobs, and mourning, and real kingdom work, God. You know where I’ve been. You know my heart. Surely my absence means little to you.
And yet, in the recesses of my soul, God whispers more countercultural wisdom–that more can even be done with less rigor and muscle and strength. That, just as it’s been in the deliciousness of these last few mornings, when I’ve sat idle, letting the waking silence wash over me, I’ve felt most refreshed, most awake, most alive.
There’s this mystery about life with God, how when we resort to doing wholly nothing, that nothingness becomes holy in its luxury and extravagance, a sacrifice, an intention, a heartiness that can’t be achieved or earned and is yet, so much purer and better and good than all my blustery days. And that openness gives life and purpose and wisdom to our work and our justice and our advocacy–it exceeds us, because it so importantly comes for God and not from us.
Perhaps that Mary Oliver line should read, what is it that God will do with our wild and precious lives?
Or at least that’s what I yearn to surrender to. For it is God who eternally waits on us, in silence, abiding in perfect patience, ever exceeding us lavishly with grace.