Preparing to Receive
By Kirk Ruehl, former Hospice Chaplain
I’m not an early morning person even though my three year old would like to make me one. I used to dream about having an hour of quiet in the house to pray and sit in silence. I’m lucky if I get 15 minutes! Granted things have gotten better now that it’s warmer and there’s earlier light. We’ve got a new bench in the garden which calls to me. I follow like a novitiate.
I have to.
I’m told that the busier his day, the earlier Martin Luther rose to pray. I understand that. A day without the right start turns anxious fast. The details get the best of me and I can’t be very available to others. Not that I’m without exception but I would call it a professional commitment to “rest in God” for a few minutes at the beginning of the day.
The challenge is to keep it simple. I have some 40 books on my “inspiration shelf” much of it poetry, I maintain a personal prayer list which I revise monthly, and I have two daily devotional publications. Like I said the challenge is to keep it simple. So here’s my rule: the less time I have the more silence I keep. My busy day means I need all the space God can create inside me to receive it. Filling that space with words won’t prepare me very well. So if I have time, I’ll read a poem, a daily scripture lesson and do my prayer litany. The poem and the scripture I read aloud because it enlivens the words somehow. The prayer I do silently. I’ve got my “cheat sheet” ready if I’ve forgotten a name or a request but I really try to lean into the spaciousness of the silence. Giving myself permission to do that makes a big difference.
On the other hand if I’m rushed I just sit, sit and breathe. I do everything I can to allow all other thought to pass right through the space. If I had to define it further I’d say that I breathe out anxiety and I breathe in peace. Martin Luther it isn’t; Simple it is.
David Whyte has a poem which challenges me to begin this receiving process even earlier in the day: before I get out of bed. “In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,” Whyte says, “there is a small opening into the new day which closes the instant you begin your plans.” Oh boy, is that a word to my heart! I often wake with lists of things to do and my “small opening” closes fast. I’m not preparing to receive anything but a headache!
Whyte continues and clarifies magnificently, “What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep.”
His is a poetic understanding which sets me straight on the most important thing to remember about preparation for my day: trust. Trust the divine “vitality hidden in my sleep” and follow it where ever it leads. Let go of the lists. Expect surprises. Open to my gifts and to the God-given opportunity for service. Receive the Day! Receive indeed.