At the beginning of each new year, I pray for God to give me a word—a theme or focus for the upcoming year. This year I felt drawn to the word savor and particularly to its meaning: to take delight in. I began my year paying attention to all that I could delight in and then savoring each thing. However, of late I’ve realized that I have not been thinking of this word very often. So, I asked myself and God, “Can I still savor during this time of pandemic with all its pain, suffering, anguish, and uncertainty due to illness, death, unemployment, and isolation?” “Can I experience Easter joy this year?” I felt the answer within me, “Yes, you can.” The scripture verse that came to mind was:
“Be still! And know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11)
God is giving me a time with very few distractions and only a small amount of decisions to make. I have a slow, simple routine. I am in my home every day. I start each day with a leisurely prayer time and a good cup of coffee. I ask God to show me who He would have me reach out to that day. My husband and I attend daily mass online. My main outdoor activities are morning walks in my neighborhood and afternoon drives with my husband in our Mini-Cooper convertible. As the weather warms, I am able to savor times on my front porch and back deck drinking in the wonders of Springtime in Illinois. I serve as a mentor and spiritual companion to some precious women here and in the Dominican Republic. I continue to do that online. I also attend recovery meetings via Zoom. I write. I enjoy Face Time conversations with my four children and my large, extended family. The sameness and simplicity of my routine give me much calm and very little stress. Since I can’t do much planning for the future, I find it easier to live one day at a time and to carpe diem (seize the day). I know from experience that both of these practices result in a very full and rich life. Much to savor.
As this year unfolds, I have reflected on what it means to receive as that relates to savoring. God has always gifted me with a lot of energy and an optimistic spirit. So, I naturally lean towards being proactive and taking the initiative. There are times in life when this is appropriate and helpful. However, in spiritual and emotional matters, it is not beneficial. When I take the initiative or try to control, I don’t allow God or others to give to me. I miss out on the gift.
The eleventh step of the twelve-step recovery program states: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” In short: sit still, quietly alone. We have the opportunity to make this a part of our new daily routine.
Some are referring to this time of staying at home as imposed monasticism. Over the years, I have spent time with Catholic nuns in monasteries. I cherish those times filled with stillness and peace—God’s presence so real to me. During this current season, I notice the parallels with a monastic way of life. I sense God drawing me to take delight in His presence in all of His creation—His people and nature. To allow God to gift me in many ways and to receive the gift of His love from Himself and from others. I have the time to treasure and ponder many things. To go slower and deeper with life’s bigger questions. To explore myself and my world. And in this way, I am able to savor.
“As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
Two years ago, I started meeting with a Franciscan sister in her home, a stately monastery in all its splendor. As we talked, I sensed how fully present she was to me and to God. I could tell how much she enjoyed –took delight in—getting to know me. It felt like she was thrilled at the fact that God had brought a new person into her life. Her attitude of gratitude and trusting surrender to God’s plan was apparent and attractive. That memory has stayed with me. I left with a strong desire to live like that, and to relate that way with the people that God puts in my life—to savor them, to take delight in them. As well as to be open to God putting people in my life who will savor and delight in me. I find that to live this way well requires a slower, unhurried pace. I need time to pay attention—to God, to my interior life, and to others. So, this imposed monasticism offers me this time. I pray that I will give and receive love better as a result of sitting still and listening more.
These days of pandemic have much to teach us. We have seen people at their best and at their worst. I remind myself that we have never been this way before. Therefore, I think it wise to be very gentle with ourselves and with others. Planet earth is hurting and we have an opportunity to look after one another as best as we can. Let God bring to mind those that need a loving touch. Receive the loving touches given to you as a gift from God.
When I spend time alone with God, I sense His immense compassion. I see how Jesus was never surprised by human weakness. Yet I am so often surprised by human weakness—in myself and in another. Jesus’ response to weakness was mercy and love. I, on the other hand, can be quick to judge, be critical, and feel superior. When I sit quietly, God gently shows these things to me along with His mercy and forgiveness towards me. I see how He is guiding me and transforming me little by little, reminding me that I am still in the making. This gift of time is changing me. I want to be quick to give and receive forgiveness.
“If at times we can just be, just quietly sit in the sun of God’s love for us, if we can believe that the One who formed us in the first place is waiting to transform us in the embrace of love, then in what we are doing with our lives, God will increase and we will decrease in the best sense of the word.” Elizabeth Meluch, OCD
We just celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday in the Catholic tradition. This year as I pondered Christ’s wounds on His hands, feet, and side, I was also struck by His wounded heart. His friends wounded Him in their human weakness. We do indeed have a God who understands our woundedness and helps us walk alongside others in their woundedness. God has insight into people’s hearts and people’s hurts. Jesus always meets people where they are and how they are. I have often underestimated the power of simply being in God’s presence. Who we spend time with changes us, so this matters. I believe spending time with God in prayer and reflection will make me more like Him. His presence and love expressed in and through my life have the power to change lives around me.
As this season of pandemic continues, let’s remember that the life of a disciple has a very long apprenticeship but can yield a beautiful bounty—the mind and heart of Christ. I believe this all begins when we learn to sit still, quietly alone. And from that place, go out into the world with Christ’s peace, love, compassion, and forgiveness. That is a great gift to the world.
“The role of committed Christians is always to grow richer themselves so that they can richly give to others.” The Rule of Benedict