This past weekend, because of being just after Valentine’s Day, my thoughts have been about love. I saw a couple of Facebook posts describing in one instance a young boy, in another a gym coach, handing red roses to every girl in their school because they wanted every girl to feel special on that day. An imaginative way to open the windows of a stuffy commercially driven celebration! These two individuals—and I’m sure there were others—shifted the center of their attention from what pleases them to what benefits others. Such a simple gesture, although I’m sure the roses were quite an investment. A gesture that will last a long time in the memories and hearts of these young women.
A woman on a retreat I was leading shared how she used to buy a small bouquet of flowers whenever she went to the grocery store. She would write on the little card: God loves you! After she paid for her groceries, she would turn and hand the bouquet to the person behind her, no matter who it was. Years later her son in Florida heard a woman on the radio relating how she had unexpectedly received a bouquet of flowers in a grocery line. When she had loaded the groceries into the car and slipped into the driver’s seat, she opened the card and read the simple message about God’s love. The woman was in tears: that message had meant the difference between life and death for her. When the son called his mom to tell her what had become of just one lady who had received one of her flower bouquets in a grocery line, she knew that in some mysterious way this simple gift, so small and hidden, a gift for which no one was able to thank her directly, had assured people they were loving, lovable, and infinitely forever loved by a God who would never let them down.
It is so easy to “sleep” through our days and nights. I have done it. I have objectified others and objects in the name of efficiency and right-thinking, right-doing, law-abiding righteousness. Not on purpose. Perhaps it is a stage we all go through as we embrace responsibility, mature into generativity, and at the same time juggle the judgment-laden atmosphere around us. It could be that middle years open windows to our spirit that wash our younger-aged beliefs and thoughts and judgments gently with ointment and anoint us anew as a child of God, hid with Christ in God, breathed into life through divine breath, and loving with the breath of love that created us.
In a recent survey we asked what struggles people wanted us to address. In the light of this love and this amazing story of the gift of flowers I’d like to speak to four comments that we received:
- God wants more of me, but I’m not sure what I should do. Books could be written on this, but I’d say for starters, begin with the life you have. Turn around and give bouquets of flowers to someone. Speak to Jesus when you go to Mass and ask him to tell you clearly what he desires of you. Find someone who can be a spiritual companion for at least a few conversations to jumpstart the journey into the unknown invitation. Follow your curiosity and read a book. Learn how to pray with Scripture. Basically, God is already leading you into the “more” he is giving you. You don’t have to figure it out, achieve it, possess it, maintain it. Take advantage of the next step, whatever it may be, in your life as it is, and through that step he will lead you step-by-step to the “more.”
- I struggle with forgiveness and the endless thoughts recirculating the pain over and over. I know. It is the nature of the mind to hang on and hang on to what has hurt us or was unjust, unfair, or just not right. These days for me the words of Flannery O’Connor ring true: “I do not know You, God, because I am in the way.” In the spirit of the “bouquet of flowers” I’ve noticed a new sister in the community showing love and kindness to persons I have felt hurt by. That act has touched me deeply to explore with Jesus why I am still hanging on. What I’m getting out of it. How this resentment is keeping an illusory sense of self alive. It is not my identity as a child of God and a beloved of the Father. Such simple acts I observe, yet they have meant much to my heart. As for the nature of the rat-race of thoughts in our heads see the next number.
- How to reduce busyness and embrace what has true value. The busyness of our life, or most especially of our mind, helps us sustain an image of ourselves, a “me” that is important, needed, useful, good, or whatever. Reducing busyness for me has started often with reserving a time period a little longer than usual to just be alone. I may need to organize myself very carefully to carve out this very needed and precious time. I go there with a couple of books, a Bible, and a journal. I go there to listen to God, to others through their written words that I read, to my own heart. I take walks, drink coffee, and pray. I follow the thread of what Jesus begins to show me through my journal notes. I learn what is of true value. It is here I touch that part of the little “me” that is resentful, that hasn’t forgiven, as we said above. In this sacred space I let God touch me. That divine touch melts that meaner “me” so that I realize that it isn’t my true identity. When it melts, all that is left is a loving tenderness. When I choose this as all I want, it becomes easier to confess and repent of resentful memories and withholding love to others who have hurt me.
- The healing of our fragmented inner space. Our “inner space” can feel fragmented and divided into a million pieces, particularly if we don’t carve out some sacred healing space. I’m seeing a growing number of articles about people saying they tried to do everything they (and others) thought they should do to be the best at what they do, and respond to every expectation and need. Finally, they just decided they could do it no longer. Some of these authors were people who didn’t have a great amount of responsibility for others and could easily walk off toward a blissfully quiet horizon. But some were people who carried responsibility for families. Here are some of the things that worked for them and for me: talk to others around you about how you can carve out this sacred time for your inner spirit. Discuss how this will affect the whole, what accommodations will need to be made, what things on the to-do list aren’t really that important to do at all and could be dropped, what are the highest values of each one in the group who will be affected, how can you create a win-win situation for everyone, where is the stretch-area that will help everyone grow in respect and love for each other, what is the breaking point, how can you create a “format” for your sacred time to make it truly restorative and healing (watching TV and surfing the net, reading email and social media aren’t as restorative as other activities and without a “plan” your free time could degenerate into wasted time).
The time you preserve and protect for your deepest self will translate into a happier, more harmonious, and self-less living and giving if you do it right. You will be less likely to get caught up in resentful reactions, and more likely to focus on what is of true value. You will also find it easier to help others do likewise.
ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE? HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…
God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 6 ways you can join me on the journey:
- Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST
- Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
- Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Enroll in the free 5-day email series introducing Reclaim Regret.
- Enroll in courses on Midlife, Contemplative Prayer, and a do-it-yourself downloadable Surviving Depression retreat
- Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.