I have a spiritual director; we meet once a month. He asks me about my prayer life, and what parts of the Bible are striking my heart.
Every month, he always asks me if there is a scripture passage that I would like to use for meditation. Sometimes I pick one that comes readily to mind. Other times, I say, “Well, why don’t you pick? Surprise me.”
(This is also how I approach haircuts and restaurant food: “Surprise me”…for you are the expert, you know the options better than I, and I trust you).
For months on end, though, he picked the story of Martha and Mary, sisters, friends of Jesus. In the story in Luke, Martha is preoccupied with hostessing and Mary is listening to Jesus, and Jesus chides Martha and upholds Mary.
I read this story for months. Finally, tired of it, I requested a different one.
For Advent, my mother, who is hopeful that I will one day make it to heaven (but pray for me), bought me an Advent journal.
I opened it first on the very first night of Advent, the late evening of the First Sunday of Advent, ready to embrace this exercise.
On the first day, this very, very first day, I was supposed to set goals for my Advent so I set them, oh, did I ever set them. Goal one: get mad holy. There were goals for daily mass and prayer and charitable living. Goals to make the Pope proud, by golly.
On Monday, the very, very second day of Advent, I woke up feeling…weird. I went to work, but decided to go home after I found myself hugging my torso, with my head on my desk, feeling even weirder.
Arriving home, the ‘flu took hold full-force and I vomited every hour on the hour for the next few days. That bug hit me hard. My room is one door from the bathroom, in a hallway, and I didn’t stray from the path between the two rooms for three days, alternatively lying in bed or on the bathroom floor.
In my bed on Thursday, weak and tired from the illness and the lack-of-food, I thought back to my very, very well-laid Advent plans. None of them had happened.
I prayed about this, told Jesus I was sorry that I wasn’t doing a better job.
“I don’t want what you can do,” I heard him reply, “I want who you are.”
And my mind jumped a wrinkle in time to all those sessions where my spiritual director had tried to help me discover this, but it took some best-laid plans and the stomach flu before the words could really reach my heart.
Not what I can do, rather, who I am.
The God who made us, maybe, delights in us being, well, us. Not in a selfish, secular way where we live in a way to uphold ourselves and push down others. Rather, in a way where we do things where God is glorified and things are created and beauty is celebrated.
This year, I have decided to dedicate more of my time to art. And travelling God’s beautiful world.
Because I would like to delight in Him, too.