I've been appreciating stillness this week. It's a practice in guard dropping, and embracing the good things that are available for me if I do so. For whatever reason, it's an incredibly difficult act for me. I'm out of practice.
During prayer and silent reflection time at church, His presence was so gentle and available, it took my breath away. The simple act of allowing my heart to be searched and fully present in that moment brought almost instantly the state of my heart into focus: I need to tweak my heart's "filter" to allow the good in, to accept what I know is genuine love in the moment with others without suspicion, and receive God's kingdom like a trusting child by accepting the grace extended to me. It was as is a dark and blurry vision became focused and bright instantaneously. The palpable warmth of that gentle, concerned love was almost startling.
And, I have to correct myself and say that it wasn't *God's* presence that made the difference, but my own. I was present in the moment, God had always been there.
As a mother, I'm an instrument of perpetual motion-planning, comforting, working, being bigger than my children's fears and emotions, providing security. In relationship, I sometimes tend to shut out or deflect caring moments for others. I do this because they come too far in between for me to trust them in our isolated society, perhaps, or because I'm afraid that if I once let go of the carefully held tension, I'll spill out all over the place like a burst water balloon.
I, like anybody, have my reasons for filtering out the good along with the bad, at times, because I don't want to take a chance on losing that feeling of safety once it's gone. Sometimes, I do it because I don't want to show my cards. Sometimes I feel it's the only way I can keep myself together and functioning. Perfect love and peace can scare me, because I fear their absence. I think almost everyone in our breakneck society sets their own pace in how they experience love to some degree.
Slowing down and participating fully in the joy and peace of a an unpredictable moment becomes unfamiliar, even though our bodies and souls crave it like water. Sitting down and taking a more receptive stance to the world isn't something that comes naturally. We can control everything else. I know I do.
I love that Jesus says in Mark, "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And then he took them in His arms. I think that's interesting, because my own little children have almost no ability to look to the future. Everything they do is fully in the present. The squish, climb, roll, smell, taste, eat, dance in and actively receive and partake in the present. That's their domain. It's were they live.
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."
Journeys aren't always about walking. Sometimes we're already were we need to go, and we don't even notice it. We act as if we're Alice running along beside the tree in Wonderland with the Red Queen, running till breathless just to stay were we are, and having to run twice as fast to actually get somewhere else. Realizing that the journey is all around us already us for us to explore and receive is difficult.
This weekend our family went hiking near a canyon covered in gorgeous autumn trees. We, the parents, walked along, pressing towards the end of the trail, commenting at how magical the woods seemed this time of year, and dragging the littles along behind us, encouraging them to hurry up and keep walking. They wanted to go off the path, stick their fingers into things, pick things, smell them. I wanted to capture it all in photos, and was busily snapping away, stuffing beauty in my box without really partaking in it.
My youngest child in my belly finally slowed me down, quite literally. I needed to slow my heart rate, so we decided to rest in the comfortable roots of a giant cyprus tree. I had no choice. And my children were happy to finally do what they'd been trying to do all along: enjoy that moment in that place.
I began to unwind, to unfold my soul under the stained glass leaves that were making a colored sunset canopy above us, and to enjoy listening to my girls playing pretend as they climbed and hopped around the giant roots. I noticed how peaceful the woods were, and how sweet the air smelled. We stayed there for half an hour. I could see it on Nate's face, too. We had been transported somewhere else. Rather than trying to capture the moment in every way possible, the moment was actively sinking into us.
Our souls were being fed by stillness. The kingdom of heaven was near.