I woke up with my alarm an hour and a half before the time agreed upon for leaving, hoping to start to the airport a bit earlier than planned. Yet, after I turned the bothersome beeping off, I let my eyes close once more for a few minutes. We had been up very late the night before taking our time to pack our bags and reorder the rental house. My eyes reopened about ten minutes after the backup alarm was supposed to go off, thanks guardian angel. Wait… its not ten minutes late, its an hour and ten minutes late! There are only 20 minutes until we absolutely need to be leaving for the airport! Thank you, thank you guardian angel! Please do not let there be rush hour traffic in New Jersey! Wake up, quick!
Our boarding group had already been called as we came up to the gate two and a half hours later. I have never cut it so close! What happened in between waking up and settling in for a long plane ride home: we made haste.
No more dilly dallying, no second-guessing, no quibbling. Brush my teeth, yes. Comb my hair, no - wait til we’re driving. Make toast to eat in the car. Bring the last two yogurts, we can figure out how to eat them without spoons later. Take out the last of the trash. No time to look over the rooms again. Pay the fee for not stopping at a gas station. Ask for directions to baggage drop off, run down this hallway, pause at the restroom, sit a second before getting in line to thank God we made it.
Another story. Jump back to the monastery. It’s Holy Saturday morning. This novice sister is sacristan, and has big decorating dreams. Her fellow sacristan is getting nervous about said big dreams. The novice mistress is called in: Finish the decorations by midday prayer at 11. Period. That’s in an hour. I ran right and left, fetching vases, cutting flowers, pulling out linens and tables, getting everything staged to go into the choir that evening. The other novice worked this whole time on beautifully decorating a single procession cross. The decorations and sacristy set up were just barely completed as I dashed off to sound the clapper summoning the nuns to prayers. Fortunately, my perplexed partner stopped me. It was only 10am. I had misread my watch! We had a good laugh, my heart slowed, and I took the next hour purposefully doing those last would have been nice things that I omitted in my haste.
I am convinced the decorations not only were finished early, but better than they would have been because I misread my watch. I am just as convinced we still would have left the rental house in Pennsylvania 20 minutes late, at least, if we had not overslept. In fact, I admit that this wonderful efficiency that takes over when a little bit of pressure on my time focuses my mind on a clear goal and purpose is why I have never been able to cure myself of procrastination.
As my wedding approaches (still far enough out that there are a lot of crazy ideas, big dreams, second-guessings and distracted dilly dallyings), it is more and more on my mind that if I want to be at my very best for my future husband, which I do, than I have to start shaping up now: healthy eating, exercise, renewing those habits that make a person pleasant to live around, and, I recalled on my way home from Mass this morning, I must not neglect getting my spiritual life into its best shape.
How to do it? First thought: I have not been consistently making time for sacred study and Lectio Divina. I feel the lack. Scripture and study is a pillar of Dominican life (and really all Catholic varieties need it). My table is wobbly at best when this pillar is missing. But I just cannot manage a daily hour for study and half hour for prayerful reading of scriptures. That’s the very reason I fell out of this good routine. I forgot the wisdom of Saint Francis de Sales who points out the silliness of trying to keep a monastic horarium outside of a monastery. But my project is to live monastically in the world, isn’t it? Yes, and I do need to get that pillar back in place, but it won’t happen unless I accept that God has established a unique monastery in my heart that cannot exactly copy any other, actual or metaphorical. This is not a journey of external appearances or good deed boxes checked. It is an adventure in spiritual freedom, growing into the unique person God loved into being, and reliance upon God’s unfathomable Goodness and Mercy.
I think the answer lies in the incidents related above. When I lose sight of my ultimate purpose, happiness with God in heaven, I dilly dally, second guess, waste time, and so end up aimlessly wandering about and pointlessly quibbling over this and that, which can only be pleasant so long, if at all, and hardly productive. Whereas, there is an eternity of unimaginable joy beckoning!
So the answer to getting my spiritual life in shape and finding time for fruitful spiritual reading, is to set heaven as the irresistible carrot always dangling before my nose, driving me, guiding me, giving healthy urgency and clarity in my choices. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” they sang this morning at Mass, “and all these things will be given unto you.”
If heaven remains the driving purpose, the rest will fall into place. So how to permanently hang that carrot? It is not safe to procrastinate with eternity. We do not know the day or the hour. So turn to the wisdom of the Church and her saints who have gone before: stay close to Jesus in spiritual reading and holy study, community, prayer and sacraments, and service (the four pillars). I need to actively value these things. Figuring out how to work them into a life outside the enclosure -- truthfully, the challenge exists just as much within the walls -- will come from weighing all my choices, big and small, by whether or not it will help me and those I love to get to heaven.
Standing at the sink at 6:42am: Brush my teeth? Yes. Comb my hair? No, it can wait. The whole of our life cannot be lived in an adrenaline rush like I experienced that morning to help us get to the airport on time, but then again there is no more important end than our final end and if we take it seriously and let each choice decisively point to heaven, then we’ll be in pretty good shape for Christ, the true bridegroom.