Friday, October 16, 2009

A Lazy Beauty

(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)

How have you spent this week? I've spent time working, in conversations, cooking, playing boardgames, watching t.v. I've sat at desks, pianos and computers. I've prayed, reflected, laughed, sung. I've acted from the most noble of impulses, and also from the most selfish. I've sought God and I've ignored Him.

In a meeting this week someone asked 'What have you done to be spiritual this week?'. My first response was 'not enough'.

On further reflection though I don't think that's true. I could repeat my opening paragraph of how I've spent this week (working, conversations, cooking, playing boardgames etc) all as an answer to that question. There is no compartment in my life called 'Spirituality'. In God I live and move and have my being. Trying to become 'more spiritual' is like trying to become 'more human', it isn't possible. I am trying to become what I already am.

Like the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, I fail to see that I already am what I'm desiring, so I walk down the 'Yellow Brick Road' of Spiritual Growth thinking that if I can just learn from this 'Spiritual Wizard' or master that Spiritual Discipline that I will become Spiritual.

The road cannot make me any more spiritual, but, as I become intentional about my journey, it helps me become aware of God's presence within me.

And as I journey, I start to worry. Am I travelling in the right direction? Am I praying in the right way? Am I growing fast enough? Am I really hearing God's voice? To help assure myself, I set myself goals. Concrete measures of growth. For example:

  • I will have a quiet time every day.

  • I will master Breath Prayer, Lectio Divina, the Examen, Encircling Prayer etc

  • I will read the entire bible through in a year (or a month)

  • I will give a fixed percentage of my income away

And suddenly bible reading becomes about the amount read rather than getting to know the Author. Prayer becomes a technique to be mastered rather than a conversation to be entered into. Giving becomes self-imposed taxation rather than an expression of the heart. Spirituality becomes a 'To Do' list.

I frantically 'labor and spin' to become spiritually beautiful, forgetting the lilies of the field.

'See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.'

Jesus offers a Lazy Beauty, a beauty that does not require effort on our part, just a surrender and a trust of what God is growing inside of us. It sounds to good to be true. A lily does not strive for beauty, it grows naturally. We feel we have to work to be as beautiful as Solomon. We create an artificial 'Spiritual Beauty' that we can strive for. An unrealistic ideal of Spirituality as false as the image of physical beauty we see portrayed in the media.

Lazy Beauty feels wrong.

I can feel myself recoiling at my use of that word, even though that was the phrase the came to mind whilst I listening to the passage last Sunday. I can hear my inner critic saying 'Use a different word, call it Natural Beauty. Lazy suggests just sitting there. It's passive. What about Striving, what about being sold out for God?'

See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. They do not work or toil. They are Lazy.

But to be lazy I have to surrender my Spiritual To Do List. I have to see what Jesus is growing in me rather than try to force growth through my own efforts.

What has crept onto your Spiritual To Do list right now?

What is Jesus growing in you?

Where can you see A Lazy Beauty?

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