In the first steps of faithful living we invite God into our lives. We seek to put God at the center of our lives. But a deeper faith challenges us to live in God, for us to move more deeply into God. This is a never-ending journey. We can always move further into God. In a deeply faithful life, there are no such things as laurels upon which to rest or pride on which to rely or even a separate self to preserve. The mystic, the contemplative, the lover of God learns how to die to self in order to fully become self, to be emptied in order to be filled, to die in order to be raised. This is the paradox of faith. Such a life requires measured, meaningful, thoughtful, and intentional breath. In it, there is no room for anything other than God because there is nothing other than God - at least nothing real. God is the ultimate reality.
To live in such a way demands that we relinquish certain holds the world has on us. Yet, I admit that many of those holds are hard to break. They are like lint that won't shake off, like that piece of toilet paper trailing from the bottom of the shoe, like a piece of spinach that just won't dislodge from between those two teeth! From our early years, we are taught that the strong survive and thrive, that competition bears the best fruit, that comfort, money, and success (to one degree or another) are the standards of a life well lived. That, of course, doesn't mean that all of us strive to be millionaires or that we are all driven by unchecked greed or that we don't love neighbor. But, for the person who seeks to move ever more deeply into the heart of God, even the weakest forms of these self-seeking tendencies need to be faced and relinquished. That is my struggle. Sometimes I would prefer to play a video game than quiet my heart and sit in communion with God. I sometimes prefer to be distracted by a movie than experience silence. Sometimes I just don't want to breathe in God. I'd rather not think about my breathing at all. Sometimes.
The hardest part of seeking to live inside of God's own heart - at least for me - is to love as God loves. Wastefully. Fully. When I feel that I've failed, it's when I've not been able to fully love. Judgment, anger, impatience. These three form the triumvirate challenge of my spiritual life. Impatience and judgment run a close race for leader of the pack. When I leave work thinking badly about the day, usually I know that I did not fully surrender to God - that I did not listen deeply enough because I was distracted, that I did not spend enough time with someone because I was impatient, that I did not allow a process to emerge in its own way because I was so certain of how it should be. When these things happen, I have been an obstacle to God rather than God's faithful servant. And, I am reminded how important that silence I resist really is and how important breathing in God's breath really is. When the day ends in joy, I can look back and name the moments when God used me - this broken vessel - in a way that helped another person. There was real humanity in that day, whether in tears or laughter or honest sharing. That's a holy and wonderful day.
We live in a world of pain, hurt, fear, despair, war, environmental crisis, violence, and isolation. We live busy lives that are full of appointments, children, pets, houses, gardens, friends, work, sports, events, volunteerism, passions, and laughter. All around us and from within us there are voices competing to express themselves and to be heard. But, for us to be attentive to them - really attentive - we must also take breaks from them so that we might move further into God. Otherwise, the world and its cacophony threaten to overwhelm us.
Tonight when I breathe in, I choose to breathe in God's holy breath, the breath which Jesus breathed into his disciples when he said, "Peace be with you." I choose to breathe out that room I didn't get cleaned, the tasks I didn't complete, and the impatience that pulls me out of the 'now'. Tonight when I breathe in, I pray "Christ have mercy." I breathe out everything else.
Saint Catherine of Siena said, "We must live in simplicity, with neither pretensions nor mannerism nor servile fear. We must walk in the light of a living faith that shines in more than mere words- and always so, in adversity as well as in prosperity, in times of persecution as well as in times of consolation" (Letter to Blessed Raymond of Capua).
She also said,
"Eternal Trinity, you are a deep ocean, in which the more I seek, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek. You satisfy my soul, yet leave it hungry, for in your depths my satisfied soul desires you still more and yearns to see you, the Light, in your own light.I tasted and in my mind's eye, with the aid of your light, I saw the abyss of yourself, eternal Trinity, and the beauty of your creation. Therefore, clothing myself in you, I saw myself as your image, filled with your power, Eternal Father, and with the wisdom which is your Son, Your Holy Spirit gave me a will that I might love" (Dialogue on Divine Providence).
Thank you, St. Catherine, for your prayer. I'll just breathe it in, too!