Clocks On Our Walls

4469802598_b822eb553f_zI was bested by my alarm clock this week.

The thing had been working the night before. My wife and I even double checked it, had an entire conversation about how funny it would be if the time was wrong after all our scrutiny and due diligence.

And then Monday morning, low and behold, time got the better of me.

My eyes flutter open, I roll over. 7:30, I read. That can’t be. It’s so dark—is it supposed to be this dark? I jump up, stumble down the cold, dark hallway of our apartment, fumble about with the milk and the cereal and begin shoveling.

Fortunately, we have more than one clock. I look at the wall. 6:15. No, I think. That can’t be. The bedroom clock said 7:30. But the iPod player on the side table says 6:15, too. So does the iPod. And in the dark and the cold, amidst the fog of early morning, I resist. There’s no way it’s not 7:30. That’s what I was told; that’s what I’m sticking to.

My mind slowly wakes up. Metaphors abound.

I wonder how many of us follow the same path in our spiritual lives. We hear it one way and everything else is white noise. We commit to a single route and everything else is just pretty scenery.

But sometimes, it really is 6:15, no matter how much we believe that it’s 7:30. And if we don’t have our wits about us to look at the other clocks in the room, our entire day gets thrown off.

In our own spiritual lives, do we have the humility to honestly and openly assess the world—and the people—before us? We all have our preconceived notions, those biases that we carry with us regarding how faith should work, how relationships should function, how family should operate. And, really, if we keep those blinders in place, we can probably get to the finish line without ever challenging ourselves, without ever letting another perspective in.

But then we wouldn’t be in time with the world around us.

There is much wisdom to be gained from that area that exists on the periphery of our daily lives—and perhaps more to be gained by making peripheries central. For a long time, I wouldn’t read any spiritual writing by anyone that wasn’t Catholic. But my spiritual life would be in a very different—and arguably, much less fulfilling—place if I hadn’t immersed myself in the Tao Te Ching, if I hadn’t pondered the poems of Rumi, if I hadn’t considered the theological approaches of other Christian traditions.

In the dark and the cold and the fog that grips all of us in the early morning, it’s so much easier to stick to what you know, to ignore those other clocks on the wall, to just commit and be done with it. But it is in those moments that we must be most aware of those other ways of proceeding that our larger human family pursues. What is there to be gained?

As we pass the halfway point of Lent, I wonder:  What are the clocks on our walls that we fail to notice, the ones we ignore? And might we do well to reset our watches?

 

 

Eric Clayton

Eric Clayton works at Catholic Relief Services as part of the U.S. Church Engagement Division. He holds an MA in international media from American University and a BA in international studies and creative writing from Fairfield University. He currently lives in Baltimore with his wife and hedgehog.