I woke up at 6:00, got up from the old cot in Trish's room and got quickly dressed. I picked up Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, his A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and my journal. I then walked down the long hospital hallway, went outside and sat down by a little lawn and flower garden. The birds were singing and looking for breakfast. The Phoenix heat would be making itself felt soon but for now the temperature was mild enough. I soaked in the solitude and the morning silence.
After a while, I took up my journal and wrote:
"I wonder how many fights the hospital personnel have had to keep this lawn from being made into a parking lot? How wonderful that it is preserved! Nature and nurture -- these are the two essential ingredients in any healing environment. This garden is yet another example of the principle expressed in that ancient prayer, thanking God for the wine and the bread, which he has created and human hands have prepared. Divine creation must be matched with human intention and preparation if worship is to take place. This garden is also a combination of divine creation and human intention and preparation. I am thankful for it."
I then read in A Long Obedience.
After awhile, I took my journal and wrote once more.
"I am aware this morning of the deepest sense of joy. Why is this?"
In this book, Peterson defines blessing as a sense of well-being that one experiences who feels connected to life, aware of his or her own soul, conscious of the presence of God and reasonably free of anxiety. It is the quality that Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, promises to all who follow him.
For most of my life, I have experienced this sense of well-being. Especially in the Latin American years, I awoke every morning to the warmth of Latin American culture. Even in the midst of poverty, I was aware of how that culture's committeeman to hospitality and mutual concern fed my soul. Early in the morning, the church bells called the Roman Catholic faithful to mass while the sounds of Protestant hymns filled the air. The smells of coffee, freshly baked bread and tropical fruit awoke my physical appetite. Life was put on alert. My spirit was stirred. A brand new day was breaking. Even after sleeping on a straw bed, I could feel the vibrancy of my own soul resonating with the awakening world around me.
For the past many years, I have incrementally lost that sense of well-being. Living in the midst of modern American culture, I have steadily allowed myself to accept a definition for blessing that views it as the state of being materially prosperous. For the last few years, I have been trying to put into words the quality of life that I have missed even as I experienced ever increasing 'blessing" as this culture defines it. This morning though, sitting in this little corner of grass, surrounded by the tress and flowers that the medical industry has somehow failed to conquer in the name of progress, I feel that old sense of blessing. I even find myself humming. What is it? Ahhh ...
"This is my Father's world; He shines in all that's fair ..
and though the wrong seems often strong, God is the ruler yet."
I would rather have this sense of blessing than any amount of wealth or power. Without it, I don't even really wish to live.
So how do I permanently surrender my idolatry? How do I give up my excruciating bondage to complication and complexity? How do I return to loving God and loving my neighbor as myself? How can I relearn the joy of discovering delight in a single flower? How do I throw away the foolish concern about the value of stock or stop wasting my valuable time and energy on the ceaseless expansion of my personal power and influence? How can I keep returning my soul to sanctity? How do I escape the prison, the cruel mirage, of this present world?
How does one consistently live in blessing by centering his or her soul in grace, especially in our times?
Trish is here to rediscover how to walk and talk. She will have no time today for any worries about new furniture or buying some amazing gadget she saw on TV. She will not care one iota about whether or not her clothes are fashionable. Yesterday, after she finally realized that half of her head had been shaved, her only comment was, "that sure was an expensive haircut!" She is just glad to be alive. She is delighting in being able to express love for me, for her family and for her friends.
For both of us, life suddenly got very basic.
I have just slept on an old cot that was terribly uncomfortable, my sleep constantly interrupted by hospital personnel going about their work. She has been fighting to remember who she is and what her life is all about. Most people would say that we have experienced a catastrophe. No one I know would want to trade places with us.
So why am I happier this morning than I was a month ago? Where did all those worries about silly things go? And is it Trish that God sent to rehab or is it me?