Driving home from class last night, as I offered a decade of the rosary to help calm my mind, what was the first thing the Spirit brought to my calm mind but a friendly reminder – don’t forget your blog post tomorrow! Oops! I had forgotten! This week has been crazy, and though I’ve been thinking and praying about what I felt called to write, it had totally slipped my mind to actually write it – and how providential for this very post…
Like I said, this week has been crazy. It’s spring – for me as a working graduate school student, that means final papers/projects/presentations, etc, all before finals (oh and working too!). Spring could mean the first big quarterly report, or that all of your kids’ games, plays, TAKS/STAAR tests etc are right now, or taxes or post-tax stuff – Spring can be a crazy season.
That being said, I’ve never really liked complaining about how “busy” I am, or how much work I have to do. Now that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend the last three days doing just that, because I did – and part of that is okay – we need catharsis, we need to express to others what we’re going through, we need to ask for help. But part of that, the part I am trying to get better with, is the kind of bemoaning that originates from a very narrow and superficial focus.
I don’t mean the focus that is required to get the job done during crunch time. What I mean is that focus that stops your gaze at the end of your nose (or end of your work day, or week), meaning you don’t gaze beyond or past it to God. It’s the narrow focus wherein you forget about St.Benedict’s timeless guiding phrase – ora et labora – prayer and work, or work and prayer.
Work and Prayer
Work and prayer need not be considered as separate spheres in our lives. During this week of hard grad school work this week, and my day job besides, an old prayer of mine surfaced in my mind. I wrote it several years ago when I was working at a residential treatment center for abused adolescent girls – intense work for sure (prayer featured in photo). I pasted the prayer on the inside cover of my agenda so I’d see it every day, as a way of uniting prayer to my work. This prayer, and the Hail Mary, were life lines in the midst of what sometimes was an extremely stressful and trying environment. I came to know that real reliance on prayer, that absolute humbling dependence when you know that you don’t have what it takes to make it alone – and thank goodness you don’t, being in a relationship of grace with God is what we’re meant for, not being alone.
Work as Prayer
The other thing God reminded me of this week – besides to write this post – is how fruitful I can be in work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working on thanking Him and blessing Him for it – but I know that’s the orientation I want to embrace. Work is a blessing – in any way shape or form, because it gives us the chance to creatively work together with God, and it stretches us beyond our comfort/laziness/apathy to show us what we’re really capable of. It’s like hitting that stride in running where you’ve pushed yourself past the I-wanna-quit point, and you realize you can keep going, you’ve got a lot left in you, and a whole new steady rhythm, too. But we need a push sometimes to get past apathy. So we can view work as a prayer, as a blessing, as a way of dialoguing with God to help us grow (since prayer=dialogue!).
Work in Prayer
So when we don’t separate work and prayer, and we embrace work as prayer by opening ourselves up to dialogue with God, then our gaze finally ascends beyond our noses and the Spirit has room to speak and work in us, that we might work in prayer, or work in the Spirit – that the Spirit might work in us! And when we’re truly listening and in this dialogue, we’ll be able to hear that God is trying to say back to us – perhaps He wants to communicate that we really are working too much and should seek harmony in the different facets of our lives, or perhaps that we need to take some down time with Him, or some intimate time with loved ones, or perhaps a nudge to ask for help, or an encouragement to keep striving towards full potential because we’ve got more to give than we believe…you’ll have to listen in your own life. But then, in this connection of working in prayer with Him, we become more fruitful in a way that just plain won’t happen if we’re disconnected.
So I had to laugh to myself last night, when in that place of narrow focus and spiritual disconnection, I forgot to write this blog – and when I finally stopped to pray – He reminded me. God has SUCH a sense of humor! Seriously!
Post Script: Please feel FREE to use/reproduce/pray the prayer I wrote if it speaks to you – it’s rhythm and pattern was meant to be easy to memorize so I’d remember it when I needed it – and I encourage you to write your own!