June 19, 2014

Straining Forward

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 
- Philippians 3:10-14
"Forgetting what lies behind..."  I endeavor to do that, to forget what lies behind.  Most days I succeed.  Some days I don't.

As someone on the spiritual path, I have heard endlessly about the so-called power of now.  Remain in the present moment.  That's the wise admonition.  Just be.  I'm not denying the truth of it, but I have to confess that on the inside, whenever I hear it, I do some serious eye rolling.  Yeah, yeah.  But some of us live in the real world where there are kids and dirty dishes and ringing telephones and endless tasks and distractions.

Except now I can't drive the kids or wash the dishes or jump up to grab the phone.  I'm doing a lot of being.  Too much.

When I forget to forget what lies behind, the able-bodied me, I want to do more doing.  I think about what I used to do, and I want not only to do it, but to go back to taking the doing for granted.  Who thinks about hopping out of bed or tying her own shoes or being able to reach the light switch or the kitchen faucet?  We just do it.  Did it.

I get tempted to live in the not-so-distant past that seemed so permanent.  The last time I needed help washing my hair, dressing myself, getting myself a meal, I was a preschooler.  That was a long time ago.

The intervening years were all present, day after day of practice until those tasks and so many others became invisible to my awareness.  They were not the background, but the very fabric of my days.  Get up, go, do.  Repeat.

What would it mean or matter to bring my attention to them?  In rush the Wise Spiritual Teachers to tell me to taste each bite or pause to feel the water on my skin or smell the proverbial flowers.  Become present to the present.  It seemed to eye-rolling me like an exercise in either navel-gazing or futility.  And maybe it was.

But now the now is all about being and noticing, whether I like it or not.  No more taking for granted, because everything, everything requires an effort, an act of will.  Get up from the chair?  Where's the walker?  Are my feet in the right spot?  Have I sat somewhere I can expect to rise from on my own?  I am painfully aware of what it takes to get up from a chair.  Hips too weak.  Quads and  forearms just strong enough to compensate from the right upright chair.

It's not all that interesting, and the days are filled with these moments.  What can I do?  What do I need help with?  I carried the cushion and the pillow today from the upright chair at the dining table to the upright chair in the living room next to the computer.  It took two trips and ten minutes.  And lots and lots of attention to how I might hold the pillow, carry it while I dragged the walker, prop it up on the chair.  I did that.  But I could not find a way to reach the bathroom cabinet to open it to reach for the toothpaste.  Not today.

I claim I want resurrection.  I say I want to be like Paul, knowing "Christ and the power of his resurrection."  But I am avoiding the fine print, the "sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death."  Why does something always have to die?

I've thought a good deal about how God says (for instance, in the Beatitudes) that in order to get the good stuff He wants to give us, we have to need it.  The hungry get fed.  The mournful get comforted.  The need then its fulfillment.  Resurrection doesn't even make sense if I'm not dead.

I don't like having needs.  I liked taking for granted that I could take care of myself, thank you very much.  I liked sleepwalking through the busyness of days and doing and feeling a little smug and Spiritual when I chose to pause to pay attention and Be.

Now I can't not pay attention.  Every thing I do is a "straining forward to what lies ahead," to the day when I can get that toothpaste out of the cabinet.  Or not, because I don't really know what lies ahead, not in practical terms.  Thinking I do is just another variation on looking behind.  That's what was.  I don't know, can't know what will be.

I only know what is.  I can know or figure out what I can do -- move the pillow, get out of the chair -- today.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris, I am at a women's conference in Atlanta and you have so been on my heart. Women, conference, Christ ... anyway I'm so glad this email showed up today because I will be very busy from now until Tuesday, July 1. Do know you are in my thoughts and prayers!