I am beginning to see a recurring theme in my Lenten meditations and reflections: interruption.
Steve pounding on the door could be seen as an interruption. So could a friend arriving at my home and calling my name as I prepared to begin my meditation yesterday.
Disturbances of the peace have happened in a number of small ways. As I indicated in a previous post, I do not take kindly to intrusion. In the past, I have been “that guy” who sends rude social cues to express a desire to leave a conversation I did not want to enter in the first place. Watch out if someone tries to talk to me while I am trying to read, even if I am in a public place where conversing is part and parcel of the territory.
The more I think about it, the more I see how self-centered a way this is of seeing the world and my role in it, as though the most pressing priority for everyone in my vicinity should be to adhere to my very specific and totally subjective rules about proper social etiquette.
What this Lent and some of the disruptions that have come with it are teaching me, however, is that interruptions are occasionally invitations.
Because I derived so much pleasure doing my daily meditation on a train Saturday, I decided I would do the same the following day while making the return trip to my home in Milwaukee. Once again, I put on headphones and music and settled into my seat for some quiet time.
A few minutes in, I had the unmistakable feeling that I was being watched. I blinked my eyes open, and a young girl was staring at me from the seat ahead. She began to speak, so I removed my headphones. She had drawn a picture of suns and hearts, and she wanted to show me. Did I know how to draw, she asked. Not as well as she did, I told her.
We chatted for the remainder of the ride. She told me her name was Serenity and that she was six years old. Serenity asked if I had children and was curious to know if my brothers looked like me. Occasionally, her mother shushed her.
The conversation never delved into particularly deep territory; Serenity was six, after all. But she was funny, and I had a hunch talking with her would be far more memorable than praying in silence. As we were leaving the train station, she turned to resolve one last concern: Did I sleep alone, she wanted to know.
I gained no striking spiritual insight from my time with Serenity, but I was glad grace, willpower or some other force helped me see this so-called interruption with a patience and humor that has eluded me in similar situations in the past.
It also reminded me that while I can arrange my meditation time in a way that I will find most conducive to spiritual growth, prayer is ultimately a conversation. If the other party thinks it best that I abandon my hankering for silence and talk about crayons and soccer with a six-year-old, I should at least give the idea some thought and consider seeing the interruption as an invitation. For all I know, that conversation might have been exactly what I needed.
“[God’s] will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him and to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to ‘do the will of God.’ No, these things, the 24 hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation.
The plain and simple truth is that his will is what he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people and problems. The trick is to learn to see that — not just in theory, or not just occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God’s grace, but every day. Each of us has no need to wonder about what God’s will must be for us; his will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day, if only we could learn to view all things as he sees them and sends them to us.” — Walter Ciszek, S.J.