morning merciesDay 8
Wow! Day 8! I officially have one week of liturgical prayer behind me. I think I would give myself an "almost-A" for my efforts this week (can't bring myself to give me an actual "B," although I am not sure what else an "almost-A" would be). First, it's time for confession. On Saturday I missed midday prayers because I was out shopping with my mom. I had actually planned ahead for being gone. I even made copies of both midday prayers and vespers that morning and planned to tuck those copies into my purse to murmur to myself in the bathroom or something (I wasn't sure how I was going to pull that off yet, and I am just not ready to be weird enough to whip out my prayers and inform my mom over lunch in a public restaurant that we are going to do the midday office together. Apparently, I am a closet liturgical pray-er.). But, I accidentally left the copies neatly folded on top of the stereo receiver, and therefore I was off the hook. I promise it was an accident, although I have absolutely no control over what my subconscious helps me conveniently forget. Then, I guess I was out of practice, because on Saturday night I was reading The Cloister Walk before bed, and despite the fact that the book is about Kathleen Norris's stay in a monastery and frequently mentions liturgical prayer, I finished my chapter, closed my book, and went to sleep. Compline never even entered my thoughts until the next morning.
Obviously fixed-hour prayer isn't exactly a habit yet. I am finding that if it is within the two- to three-house allotted prayer time, I should probably go ahead and stop what I am doing and read and pray when I think about it, because I may not remember until hours later. And actually, I would do well to transfer this wisdom to other areas of my life. I am, apparently, the queen of "I'll do it later," and then it doesn't get done, and then I get frustrated and feel bad about myself and spend so much time feeling bad about myself that I forget to do the next important thing. It's a vicious cycle.
One unexpectedly uncomfortable side effect of liturgical prayer is that stopping to pray four times a day is like stopping to look into my soul's mirror four times a day. I think that that sort of peering was rather easier when I was just doing the morning office, because it was a new day, and while I may have uttered a PG-13 word while Jillian Michaels was torturing me, my kids weren't even up yet, so I was still in the good graces of God's morning mercies. But by midday I am sometimes I mess.
Actually, yesterday I was a mess for the morning office, but that was because it was a Sunday morning, and I slept in a bit, and while Matt blissfully slept on (as he had every right to do) I had bathed Jack and fixed him breakfast and gotten ready and assembled my grocery list for a mad, pre-church dash to Natural Grocers before I even sat down on the porch for morning prayers. In fact, I was halfway to my car before I stomped--I mean, walked--by up the deck stairs, flung open the door, snatched up the Divine Hours, and plunked myself onto a chair with my stinky bad attitude wafting up to God like some truly unacceptable burnt offering. Then I prayed the "prayer appointed for the week," which is a prayer said during the morning office, the midday office, and at vespers:
O God, you have taught me to keep all your commandments by loving you and my neighbor: Grant me the grace of your Holy Spirit, that I may be devoted to you with my whole heart, and united to others with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen" (Tickle 192).
Well, fine. So maybe my neighbor technically includes my demanding 5-year-old and my snoozing husband. And maybe I needed a teeny tiny grace transfusion. And maybe my heart was too cluttered with frustration and stress and annoyance to consider myself devoted with my whole heart. And maybe I wasn't exactly feeling "united to others with pure affection," especially during yesterday's evening hours when I obsessed over the injustice of a snarky comment I convinced myself was lobbed my direction.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
It's not like I feel like God is shoving his words or these prayers into my face and yelling at me. It's more like He is sitting beside me on this porch, and he is completing ignoring both my bedhead and the cup of coffee I am offering Him to distract Him, and He is saying very gently, "OK, Jill. You have some yucky stuff festering in this heart of yours. Let me just peel back that bandaid over your heart a second and take a peek." [And this is where I start yelping, "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!"] And he very kindly looks at that ugly heart-wound, and I only see compassion on his face, not judgment. Then he adds a little more ointment, covers my heart back up with a fresh bandage, and He pats my hand and says, "Yes, there is still an infection, and it's bad, but all that icky stuff has to be drawn to the surface before your heart can heal. You're coming along just fine." And then I believe that maybe, just maybe, I could swallow that tincture of grace today and accept God's morning mercies and move a little bit further towards whole-hearted devotion and pure affection. At least, I'm going to try.