Well, my nephew and I have returned from a refreshing and simultaneously exhausting trip up North.... yes, even the word North conjours up sweet memories.... of mosquitoes.
For some cosmic reason out of my control (what is in my control anyway?) the usual blissful, warm days, cool nights, birches, balsam, and sea breezes that I was accustomed to tasting in my trips to Maine at the end of July were... gone. Thanks to some Tropical Storm hundreds of miles away, we were sogged with fog, rained on by rain, and hugged with humidity. And those winged harbingers of doom... oiy!
Mosquitoes the size of small mammals were everywhere. They could bite through jeans! JEANS! I'm not making that up! I think they've been genetically manipulated or something... but why? and by whom? Ah, that's a thought for another day.
Seriously, the trip was great. It wasn't all rain and pain. What's life without bugs and suffering anyway? My dad says the skeeters are here to remind us that "this ain't heaven." Fair enough. We still hiked, and biked, and kayaked; swam, jumped, swatted, laughed, ate, sang, ate some more, spoke of deep mysteries and prayed... so that's pretty good stuff. Here's the blog link if you care to peruse the pics!
Now this experience of seven days with my 14 year old nephew (and Flapjack, our mascot) got me thinking about the ways we encounter life... I mean Life. I mean the Truth and Beauty and Goodness and Unity that Life contains deep within because God planted it there. It's an encounter which many of us (14 to 38 to 98 years old) have sometimes achieved, missed, ignored, or still seek. So how and when do we "get" it? And can we facilitate the encounter?
I had some serious plans for last week. Perhaps too many. You know the old saying "How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans." Well, I came to realize that the invitation to such mysteries has to always remain just that.... an invitation. It can't be forced, faked, or fabricated. It's best if it's simply unveiled, pointed to, released simply with a look or a silence. You drive and you look out the window, and there's life. And you watch it unfold like a road before you.
I was reading a fantastic book called Three Philosophies of Life by Dr. Peter Kreeft this summer (for the second time 'cause it's that good) and I came across a line about this encounter. He said that there are three ways to enter into life:
1. We can be carried. No work involved, no will, just lifted here and there like a pile of heart and bones. We don't learn much or stretch our spiritual muscles this way. We're like jello, and we simply fill the mold we're carried into (Realistically, we need this until we're oh, ten or eleven... I think. And other times too, it's flexible).
2. We can be pushed. Just do it because I said so. It's not always pleasant but it gets the chores done. It's kind of like the Purgative Way of the spiritual life. I don't wanna but I gotta.
3. We can be drawn. Oh here it is.... this is the moment when the alabaster jars of God's fragrance, stored up in the things of earthly life, break open and lift our eyes to Heaven! This is more akin to the Illuminative or Unitive Way of the spiritual life. To be drawn is to give in to the tractor beam of Grace, to let down our shields and allow ourselves to be taken in by that Death Star that is the Pierced Heart of Jesus. Yes, death to self, death to self-absorption, and to what others think of me. That's a trap with a strong gravitational pull. But everything created by our Loving God has a stronger magnetic property. We just have to orient ourselves towards it. "To see the miraculous within the ordinary is the mark of highest wisdom." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
My prayer for Sean, as he enters high school this fall, is that he surrenders more and more to this magnetism of grace and truth and goodness, in his friendships, his studies, his prayer, his looking at life as it unfolds before him. I was privileged to be drawn to God by Sean's easy laugh, quiet peace, crazy quotes from Nacho Libre, and his willingness to journey into the unknown with me. This is one extraordinary young man; I know he'll navigate well through the trails ahead!
Just bring some bug spray, Sean. There could be mosquitoes.
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