I’ve been working on this essay about spiritual surrender, and here are some lines that keep coming back, trying to teach themselves to me:
Sometimes I think this question of surrender and control—the balance between what God does and what I must do—is like those pictures that hold two realities at once. Look at the picture in the first dimension—the life without surrender perspective—and you see a career that must be built, choices that must be made, an empire of the self, for the self, forever and ever amen. But adjust your perspective just a fraction—sometimes I can manage this for a fleeting moment—and a life can become a hymn.
I struggle here, right here, in the middle of the mess, because it is a deeply unconscious belief of mine that the life I build must belong to me, brick by brick. For me, God is a part of the equation, and I have experienced spiritual surrender in fleeting moments—but still, it is my life to build. So brick by brick, I try to lay the life I want—keep a clean and harmonious home, inside and out. Teach my children to do right by themselves and by others. Love others, live in joy, let the little things slide, but be sure to balance the checkbook and cook healthy meals and clean out the garage. And somewhere in the middle, try to find time for the things that make me grow and sing, the things that vibrate with the timbre of truth.
I keep bringing this dilemma to myself, and to God in prayer, asking for an answer—where’s the line between getting the life I want, the one with all this harmony and the money to support creativity as well as repair the siding on the house? Aren’t I supposed to be building an empire of the self, just like a good little American middle-class woman?
Today, an answer to the dilemma hit me as I was reading an alphabet book to my son: this life I want, the one with harmony and creativity, is already here. Right here, in the middle of the mess. There’s this spiritual nugget of truth, probably from a Zen master, that I read in the book Eat, Pray, Love: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. These lines, like my own, keep coming back to me, reminding me that I don’t understand them yet.
I’m currently digging up these pebbles I hate with all my heart that live in rock beds surrounding my house—rock beds that are choked with weeds that I hate with all my heart, plus ten. I am digging up these rocks because I want flowers there—bigass blooming colorful flowers. And I’m rearranging the books in my house so my favorites are where I can see them every day. And I’m framing pictures of my family and placing them all over the house so they can surprise me with the smile of memory. I’m doing all of this not because I think it will help me get anywhere I particularly want to be, or even because it will somehow shape my life. I’m doing these things because they make me happy and I need them.
Which, come to think of it, are the two of the best reasons in the world to do anything.
I’m sure I’ll keep struggling with this question of mine, with balance and control and surrender and God’s role and my role and what the hell the rewrite of this essay is supposed to look like and why the floors keep getting so freaking dirty every five minutes and how to get where I’ve always thought I should be.
What if I’m already there?