Good Zeal

Taking Time, Making Space

Items on the give-away table“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.”
from Patient Trust, a prayer from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ

I learned from my grandmother at an early age how to appreciate the art of organization. Grandma’s closets and drawers were wondrous spaces of artfully arranged and accessible items, carefully stored and lavender scented. Her cabinets and cupboards displayed aesthetically pleasing and efficiently arranged items for daily use as well as those for special occasions. She taught me to care for things so they could serve and be preserved for years of use.

Each year before spring Grandma undertook a traditional deep house cleaning, ridding closets and corners of unsightly cobwebs and unwanted contents. Items that had been outgrown or gone unused were gathered and redistributed to others, swapped with friends and neighbors, or donated to a local charitable organization. I was enlisted to help with this annual ritual, and I came to enjoy the benefits of a good clearing out.

In recent years I have taken time in the new year to purge files and folders from digital devices as well as file cabinets. Shredding obsolete documents and paperwork makes room for the incoming. This also affords me a chance to review the past year, as I make a day or two of sorting through everything from photos to notes, articles, and invoices.

This interval of clearing out comes at a price, as it forces me to suspend my usual routines. I am forced to slow down as I find myself becoming engrossed in the details of sorting through the past year. It also offers me a chance to recognize how grateful I am and to gain perspective on the relationships, goals, and outcomes the previous year’s passing reveals. This is a time when God, if I am paying attention, reveals the work that has been taking place behind the scenes. The catch is that I must slow down and take notice, then decide how I will respond.

Stopping to take time to sort through the details of my daily life helps me to refocus my intentions. As opposed to blindly making new resolutions, it helps me to see if I am on track with the intentions I set out to live with at the very beginning. I examine myself to see how the past year has changed me, and if these changes are in line with my overall intentions and fulfilling my vows as a Benedictine oblate.

A spiritual director once illustrated a beautiful metaphor for the Rule of Benedict. She described how a climbing rose needs a sturdy trellis for it to flourish and produce an abundance of hearty blooms. The trellis provides a support that is anchored to an even sturdier wall. The Rule teaches that our lives flower and thrive when our days are arranged and supported by prayer, reading, labor, and rest.

Whether or not you sort through closets and files this year, remember that if not you, someone will have to do this eventually! Clearing out the past to prepare for the present and the future can be a practice that includes the elements of prayer, reading, labor and even rest. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and take time to read those articles and notes you set aside. Who knows what you may be led to discern?

By Noel Poston, Oblate OSB

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