Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reflections on my month of fixed-hour prayer and a sneak peek at next month's project

Today marks the end of my month-long project of praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I must admit that I am proud of myself.  As I said in a previous post, I am an idea person, not so much an implementation person.  I love ideas that are lofty and grand, but when it comes down to executing those ideas, when my romantic notions of those ideas die a brutal death in the nitty-gritty of real life, I often just give up. 

But this month, I didn't give up.  I wasn't perfect.  Absolutely not.  I tend to be able to pray three out of the four offices a day.  The one I usually miss is vespers, which is unfortunate, because that one usually involves singing a hymn.  There were a few times when there was just too much ugliness inside of me, and I just could not pray.  And I didn't.  However, there were other times when there was just too much ugliness inside of me, and I just could not pray.  And I did it anyway.  There were also times when I was too tired to pray, too busy to pray, too distracted to pray.  And during those times I either consciously or subconsciously forgot to go sit down with my book, The Divine Hours.  And there were also those times when I was too tired to pray, too busy to pray, too distracted to pray.  And sometimes I sat down and prayed anyway.

I started this Amish-hippie project with the hope that it would make me more mindful, and instead of starting on all the outward Jill-improvement projects, I decided to start with the core of me, my soul.  I feel like I started the project with this idea that I was standing awkwardly on the earth and staring up at the sky with a rope in my hand trying to lasso God into my daily life.  What I found is that I didn't need to lasso God into my life.  Instead, God lowered a rope to me and He hung on with me as I swung wildly about desperately trying not to fall into an abyss of despair.  Quite frankly, I didn't realize how often I hovered over the dangerous precipice of despair.  I seem to be able to avoid that precipice when I never stop running.  But when I stop, I realize I am not running at all, but dangling, hanging on by a thread.  And I feel like I'm still dangling, but the rope I am clinging to is a little thicker, a little stronger, a little more secure, and my grip is a little tighter.

I sit here with wonder and realize that I am a different person than I was 31 days ago.  Fixed-hour prayer has changed me. 

Fixed hour prayer has taught me to stop.
...to stop cleaning up the kitchen to pray for my daughter's confidence on her karate test.
...to stop grating ginger to chat with a friend who needs me.
...to stop listening to the radio and just chop the ginger.
...to stop staring at the stupid computer screen and look my children in the eye when they talk to me.
...to stop my endless battle with my to-do list in order to spend the evening with Matt.
...to stop and just be present in the melancholy fog that has lately wrapped its tendrils on my soul.
...to stop my impatience right in its well-worn tracks when I am trying to write a blog entry and Jack is asking me questions about the mystery of sticky things (not that that is happening right this second and probably causing me to write a completely incomprehensible blog post).

I have no intention of wrapping up this month of praying the offices by closing my book tonight after compline and not looking back.  I hope (I pray) that tomorrow morning, when it is August 1st, that I will still open my book and pray the morning's liturgy.  I feel like fixed-hour prayer has been a seed that has planted itself into my soul, and I hope that I continue to water and nourish and weed around that fledgling plant. 

Tomorrow, however, is a new month, a new discipline.  I wanted to write more about what next month's project will be, and maybe I will have more time later, but for now I will just tell you what I am going to pursue:

The art of being alone, of nourishing my soul with its desperate need to be alone.
Once again, I look forward to this month with both excitement and trepidation, with both hope and fear.

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