Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fear of Life as Prayer

Colossians 3:17 (Revised Standard Version.): "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

vv. 23-4: "Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ."
I am a Spanish teacher by trade. Yes: in the world, I am that guy--the one who dragged you through (or, if you were like me, dragged everyone else through while I enjoyed) endless vocabulary words, conjugations, and dialogues/stories in the target language you've long since ceased using and, therefore, remember "un poquito español," as I hear all the time.

I am a husband and a father. Breadwinner, peek-a-boo engager, companion and helper, I've been charged with, well, "leading the charge" within my household in taking the Kingdom by force, all the while working to help keep things organized, clean, and otherwise appropriate for sane, mature adult life.

It is, therefore, required of me as a follower of Jesus Christ to offer up these positions to Him in gratitude, as well as with the greatest amount of preparation and thought put into exactly how I am going to execute what I firmly believe to be my divinely appointed niche in life. This is done "so that it may be profitable to myself and others, and to the glory of [God's] Holy Name," as goes the prayer. Ideally, such a venture is to be surrounded by and permeated by prayer--a morning and evening habit of meeting with God, along with as much during-the-day meditation on the Name of Jesus as running frantic through life in this world will allow--and thus is itself infused with the presence of the divine and made into a prayer. Life as prayer, worldly vocations as ministry for others (not to mention salvation for self)...nothing so repulses me.

I prefer, rather, to "talk shop" in Church, substituting a lively theological debate or a "basics" rundown of Orthodox theology with an inquirer for another, perhaps "uneventful," encounter with God that provides no "rush." There's blogging--everything from customizing a "look" to a "comments blitz" that can take you late into the night--and discussion forums that can sap the time clear out of a day that was supposed to go towards grading papers...TV to books to even YouTube...most anything can be and is preferred to the slow, simple, obligatory (and often unnoticed) work of daily's been said that the problem with life is that it's so daily, and these sugar-pill distractions tend both to tantalize and edge what matters most--my life as prayer--outside the edges of my life's picture.

This happens, of course, due to its being the "quick and easy" route, that of least resistance, where we can (at least temporarily) fool ourselves into believing once again that reading about Chalcedon can sub for our humanity meeting the divinity within us (and all the terror and sacrifice that entails), that debating Protestants over justification, sanctification, sacrament, et al is tantamount to letting this life in Christ mold me into one who loves God and neighbor. Not that these things are always to be avoided or seen as unnecesary, but rather prioritized and lived instead of told so much...

Ora et labora, St. Bendedict said: Pray and work. The challenge, then, being not to consume our every waking hour obsessed with work obligations or (even worse!) turn actual prayer into no more than an obligation, but rather to find the "rest you can find in your work, that you can't get out of sleep,"* the trust that takes us through mundane tasks because we've seen the One for Whom we're doing this and we love Him with an Eros that at least rivals that which we give to our own, personal, sugar-pill gods.

Lord, have mercy on us. St. Benedict, pray to God for us.

*(referenced here)


Byzantine Dixie said...

I have been thinking along these same lines lately as well...especially since we have begun the Nativity Fast. It's good to have these understand what is pulling us away so we can battle against it. I can relate to every word you have written. Well...except that part about being a Spanish teacher and peak-a-boo engager...if I substitute my work title and "do your laundry" encourager for my young adult works though. ;)

Lord have mercy on us, indeed.

John said...

Good thoughts, indeed. The "talking shop" and blogging "comments blitzes" hits close to home for me, as well, these days. That is an admonition I certainly need to take to heart. (BTW--I met your friends and fellow parishioners, Zach and Lindsey, at our first Divine Liturgy at the St. John of Damascus Mission).

David Bryan said...


Not only are they our fellow parishioners, but very good friends and the godparents of our daughter! Where's this new mission?

John said...

David Bryan,

The new mission is in Tyler.