Once upon a time I was a born-again Christian. I was young and earnest. I made time each day for Bible study and prayer. I attended church services and was an altar server. Later, as a young adult, I took ministry training. I helped with preparing and leading worship, ran evening study classes, met parents to talk about baptisms, sat on committees, supported fundraising events. In these days devotion seemed simple. A prescribed set of tasks, active service within the church.
After I had my children I continued this path, however it was more challenging, the demands of parenting didn’t fit easily with active ministry, I began to explore what living as an act of prayer might look like, then when I began to work in education, once the boys were in school, this became a different coloured thread in my devotional weaving. I was fraught though, pulled in many directions, longing for the simplicity of service, feeling caged by societal expectations. It felt as though I was constantly being asked to “choose”, this or that, devotion or career, mundanity or mystery.
Over the years I have continued to reflect on this, finding the weave sometimes too tight, sometimes loose, never quite hanging together. The tangle seems to be around trying to engineer a situation where it all flows. To create an organic process for arranging a life of devotion in the heart of life denies the fact that organic processes create themselves…I might be a support or guide, tying in the shoots, clearing the dead leaves. I can’t force it.
This week the theme has returned to me again. As we embark on a new phase of care for my mother time stretches to thinness and I feel an old, familiar tension.Turning my mind to the tasks in hand I find a new devotional practice. Brewing a pot of tea. Emptying the recycling bins. Sweeping a floor. As I lie in the front room trying to fall asleep at the foot of her bed I imagine walking barefoot into a huge marble temple. I am surrounded by devotees. We walk silently, our feet whispering on the floor. Candles and incense stand to left and right. I am here to make an offering.
Back in the apparent world I find myself reminded of that temple. I realise that while my other-worldly temple is out of reach for now, I have an actual temple to tend, the details and distractions of daily life beckon. As I sweep the floor I am the disciple, as I clear the dead flowers from the vase I am creating beauty, as I hold a cup to Mum’s lips I am tending the needs of a world in pain. There is no split between devotion and the daily. They are one and the same. Micro-magical moments waiting to be unlocked as I wake to their presence.