Most of my life, I’ve been waiting to live.
The pattern has been like this: seasons of thinking about what it means to live and waiting to live and hoping to live, interrupted by moments of living.
I’ve spent most of my days thinking about life, pondering what will enable me to live. Hoping for that break that will allow me to live. Counting on that change that will lead me to circumstances in which I can live. Afraid that if I commit myself to living now, I will miss out on the real living that might have been.
Then, every once in awhile, life breaks through.
I hear my granddaughter giggle uncontrollably. I watch her dance around in a circle with an abandon that must be the very definition of joy, and I know my place in the world: I am like Abraham, the father who laughs, and the promise is in the seed. I live in my family.
I sit in a living room with an octogenarian, while her demented husband lies drooling on the pillow in his hospital bed next to her. Though we have known each other less than an hour, she entrusts some of her deepest feelings and fears to me. I live in her tears and whispered confidences.
A line in a sermon I am preaching catches me off guard and deeply moves me. I pause. I catch my breath. I hear myself speak more softly and personally, and the people in front of me are my friends. We connect. In the word on my lips, the Word that did not originate from me but which came like an unexpected breeze, I live.
Driving down the road, I sing along with a favorite tune. It surprises me when my voice breaks and my eyes tear up. There’s some kind of life in that music, life that swells in my chest, life that carries me away. I live in the song.
The greenest groomed grass, immaculately raked soil marked with white chalk, the shape of a precious diamond, the smell of oiled leather, and smack of honed wood on cowhide. A leisurely day in the sunshine. Narrative and tradition emanating from a radio speaker. I live in the baseball game.
A simple joke with a clever twist told by a friend catches me off guard and I find myself laughing from my belly. There’s life in the laughter.
A Sunday nap, the sound of rain blessing the surface of the land, recognizing the instant that taking the picture would capture the moment perfectly — and getting it, the anticipation before the thrill, the cool breeze in my face, the easy, effective partnership I have with my colleagues, the sense of relief and awe I feel when I’ve just had a near miss — life, the moments of life, the stuff of life.
And this is my vocation — to simply live. Having found life and having actually experienced living, I find I am much less anxious to search for it, to think I must change my circumstances, do something different, pursue some new interest, gain some new insight, achieve some new status. As Merton says,
Suppose one has found completeness in his true vocation. Now everything is in unity, in order, at peace. Now work no longer interferes with prayer or prayer with work. Now contemplation now longer needs to be a special “state” that removes one from the ordinary things going on around him, for God penetrates all.
I would not claim that this describes me, or that I am anywhere near “completeness in [my] true vocation.” Heavens no! But I would testify to a bit more contentment, a bit less anxiety; a bit more acceptance, a bit less restlessness.
A bit less thinking about how to live, and a bit more living.
What on earth have we all been waiting for?