In more than one place, the Bible writers assert that our spiritual troubles arise from our lack of attentedness in our daily lives, we are going throguh them as machines, following our patterns paying very little attention to the moments before us.
There are quotes from scriptures: Proverbs 6:9, How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep? There is also Ephesians 5:14,Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead…
Some more recent philosophers have made a similar point. Like Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek asked, Instead of asking “Why are we here?” We should ask, “Are we here?” Author Thich Nhat Hat observed that, People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.
With the challenge before me, I decided I was going to go to our Sunday Service attentive to the present moment. Unconscious patterns are a clear sign of going through life asleep. I know about patterns. I’m a pastor.
My church’s members are like most others, finding comfort in familiar practices, arriving at the same time, parking in the same spots, and seating themselves in the same pews. Most pray patterned prayers offering, “Our Father who art…” when we gather and praying “God is great…” and “Now I lay me…” at home.
When I first started to notice my patterns, I tried to break out of one on a Sunday morning. It did not go well for me or my congregation. After the worship service, I took my position at the front of the church by the door as usual. As I shook the hands of exiting parishioners, I greeted and was greeted with, “Have a nice week,” and, “See you next Sunday.”
One of our members, Kathy, shook my hand and said softly, “Hi, how are you?” without breaking her stride through the door.
I replied, “Fine,” but determined to have more than the typical response, I resisted Kathy’s quick exit. The normal duration for a handshake was over, but I wasn’t finished. She pulled away, but I held on pulling her back into the doorway. I twisted my head to make contact with her already-past-me face. She returned to me. “Kathy,” I said pausing for emphasis, “how are you?”
“Fine,” she said giving a slight tug of return to her hand.
“No, really Kathy, how ARE you? I want to know.” By this time I just had her fingers, “Are you okay? How was your week? Really, I want to know.”
“It was fine,” she said emphatically pulling her hand liberating her fingers. “Fine,” she said again. “Really.” At this point she was out the door.
I gave her the pastoral I understand nod of my head. ‘I think we connected,’ I lied to myself. I looked up to see the parishioners now backed up from the exit like a line of women at the bathroom of a college football game, restless and anxious, trying to will the front of the line to move ahead and make way. The path cleared; one by one they all came through. I let them all go, no questions asked.
In your life, look at your patterns. Do you see any that have become sacred traditions for reasons since forgotten?