“What is the first thing you think about in the morning?”
I spend the majority of my waking professional day asking questions. As a teacher with a curriculum geared toward literary analysis, this seems to be my natural state of communication. Questions such as “What does the narrator mean when he says x?” Or, “Why does the poem emphasize this particular image?” come trippingly off my tongue during a school day. I love asking difficult questions which challenge my students’ perceptions, and to see them squirm in their chairs and furrow their brows (their “brains wrinkling” as I have described it before).
But what happens when the tables are turned?
This usually occurs during the weekend, when, after grading (or often before), I allow my mind to wander freely over anything that catches my interest.
Lately, I have dived, once again, into an exploration of Christian monasticism, particularly the practices of the Cistercians and the Carthusians (sample reading: The Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Maguire, The Cistercian World: Monastic Writings of the 12th Century, and The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture.). Reasons for this wading into monastic waters include my own desire for simplicity and solitude, and the attempt to find common ground, and balance, with the contemporary dialogue of the Church, and the gathering of wisdom from its past.
Lectio Divina is one of the practices of the Benedictines, often described as a slow, careful, meditative reading of Scripture. Readers immerse themselves in the Word, not for “answers,” but for the experience of the Word in their lives, at that particular moment in time. The reader reads until a verse or word catches her attention, and then the reader repeats the verse or word almost as a mantra, to let the passage sink in and allow the Word to reveal itself in her heart.
A spiritual practice which butts heads with my answer to the question posed at the beginning of this blog entry.
Coffee. That’s the first thing I think about.
Not God. Not my faith. Not thankfulness to God for Him or my faith.
Coffee elicits the direct opposite state of mind that lectio encourages.
You want to do stuff.
And more stuff.
Any print material I come across, I analyze to pieces.
Because that energy needs to GO somewhere.
It can’t just BE.
Which is what lectio demands: that you be on God’s time, not your own, and certainly not on the accelerated bouncing off the walls conception of time that our venti double-espresso culture values so highly.
So I love reading- intensely reading- about monasticism, yet when it comes to the practices of monasticism, such as lectio divina, I come up woefully short in my caffeinated state.
And short as in I’m not taking the time to let the fullness of Scripture tell its tale. The words become jumbled together and meaningless. Not always, but enough to make it an issue.
I have a feeling I know what I need to give up for Lent.
This is not exactly going to be fun.
But necessary nonetheless.