Waiting for Emily

By Carolyn Brock

(This article first appeared in the December 1986 Africa Herald Magazine.)

One year ago I was waiting; I was full of energy waiting to break forth, full of life waiting to be born. I was waiting for Emily. I didn’t know at the time, however, that I was waiting for Emily. The baby kicking and hiccupping inside me was an unknown life, a mystery yet to be encountered. And it was perhaps because Emily had not yet been revealed to me that I felt so excited about her coming.

To feel something growing inside me, transforming my body, changing my emotions, creating new meanings for my life… this had been the process going on for many months. Now it was reaching a peak, and the awareness that this new person was actually alive and real, though inside of me, was very intense. I wanted to open myself up and see who was there (I actually dreamed about doing that one night).

One thing was becoming dramatically clear– a monumental change was about to take place. There would be no going back to a pre-Emily state. From now on she would be part of everything I experienced and chose. We were committed to share life together and be bound to each other forever. This was a rather terrifying thought at times when I realized the quality of life I would like to offer my child, the quality of person I would like to be for her so she could grow up whole and holy. Was I really ready to be a mother? Was I ready to be the grace and love of God to a child given me by the divine Parent? Waiting, I asked myself these questions and tried to prepare my heart.

As I reflect on these feelings, a year later, I realized I was not ready to receive Emily with the purity of heart with which all babies deserve to be greeted. But she came anyway. She came into the midst of my weakness, came and humbled me to tears with her beauty, came and challenged my selfishness with her need for nurturing. Emily didn’t wait until I was the perfect mother before she arrived on the scene. She had to enter my life and begin happening to me every day before I could understand how to be her mother.

Is it not just this way with the coming of Jesus? So often we feel we are waiting for him to become more real in our lives. We long to see and touch him in more tangible ways. We long to feel him growing and living inside our very beings. We long to give birth to him so his goodness can be visible to our eyes. And yet when we realize the holiness demanded of us as bearers and birthers of the Son of God, we suddenly meet our total unworthiness and unpreparedness.

Babies don’t wait for parents to become perfect before entering their lives. And Jesus doesn’t wait for us to become perfect before he asks to be carried by us into the dark places of our world. In moments when we feel most unready and most unworthy he enters our hearts, surprises us with his energizing presence, humbles us with the beauty of his love, and transforms our selfishness into service through a gracious vision of those who need his care.

There is really no going back to a pre-Jesus state once we have felt his life pulsing within us. There is no disconnecting the cord of commitment without forsaking the persons we had hoped to become through the flowering of his love in our souls. We are forever bound to him once we have invited him to take up residence in our hearts. He keeps living in us, growing, moving, revolutionizing the very fiber of our beings.

This is what we open ourselves up to anew each Advent season. This is the time of waiting, the time of preparing, the time of expectancy. Into our imperfect hearts Jesus enters, bringing newness of life, freshness of hope. Let us wait for the miracle of his coming with joy!

Spiritual Practice:

When have you experienced the sacred within even when you felt less than perfect? How are you invited to be a bearer of God this season even if you don’t feel totally prepared?

“She had to enter my life and begin happening to me every day before I could understand how to be her mother.” Rest in the assurance that preparation happens along the way.

AN INVITATION

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

An invitation
For you

Today
Right here
Right now
In the middle of everything

In these details
Of this moment
Of this life

No pre-requisites required
Just this simple noticing
Wherever you are

Just a heart opening
Not even sure exactly why
Or to what

Just this sweet unexpected grace
Offered to you
As whatever you most need it to be
Peace
Belonging
Disruption
Hope

Right now
The invitation
Is for you
For right now

You don’t have to go somewhere else
Or be someone else
To receive it

It is in this person
This task
This conversation
This silent awe

What could be more important than this?

There will be other invitations to come
But this one expires
As soon as the moment
Has passed

Each moment arriving
Holding in its open palm
Another invitation
For you
For another
Right-here-right-now
Glimpse
Into the heart of the holy
That is right before you
Right within you
In the middle of everything
Wherever you are

ANY BIT OF SPACE

Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Consider those who need to experience the peace of God’s presence. Schedule a time to visit someone who may be lonely or isolated. Repeat this week’s prayer phrase throughout your day.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:

I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE.

Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of Centering Prayer written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. What are your reflections from this week’s practice?

by Dustin Davis

“God faithfully comes into any bit of space we create for [God].” – Ruth Barton

My time of centering prayer begins in the morning after I’ve eaten breakfast, showered and gotten dressed and packed my bag for work. (I find that I’m too distracted if I try to do this before I’m ready for the day.) I sit in my chair near a window and light a small candle. I get comfortable, feet on the floor, hands resting on the arms of the chair. I offer a two-sentence prayer before I begin. “God, thank you for this time of prayer into which I am about to enter. May I rest in your presence.” I set the timer on my phone for 18 minutes and set it aside. I close my eyes, breathe deeply and do my best to focus on my prayer words Be Still as my attention to God starts to drift or as other thoughts float past. Sometimes it takes longer on some days than on others, but what happens next, as I fall into the company of God and simply be, is a mystery.

When I go running in the mornings it changes the way I feel for the rest of the day. I’m more alert, have a better attitude and just generally feel better. I have noticed that Centering Prayer has largely the same effects. Our lives are so busy, so packed full of stimulation that we rarely take the time to just be. This is certainly not a new observation in the spiritual life, but how refreshing – and culturally subversive – to go against the norm and purposefully pause.

A favorite author of mine, Ruth Barton, talks about the importance of creating sacred space and sacred rhythms in our lives as part of Christian discipleship. One of the themes in her writings that I particularly like is this idea that God uses any time and space we create for God, no matter how big, no matter how small. What a freeing thought! For me I find release in this promise from my false expectations of many spiritual practices and even the larger picture of spiritual transformation. In the light of this promise I am free to let God work as long I make the space.

The Centering Prayer is a humble practice, and this, I think, is what makes it so rejuvenating and so different from other prayers. The fact that it doesn’t rely on my words is liberating and freeing for me. Words are powerful and important to me, and I have a tendency to get hung up on them. (I won’t tell you how many times I’ve re-written this paragraph!) Prayers with words can easily become literary exercises, carefully designed to impress or sound sophisticated even if that is not our intention. In sharp contrast, the Centering Prayer requires only my willingness to be still and instead relies most heavily on God. This is a humble stance to take, one we don’t often assume when we are sponsoring an event at the church or preaching or simply offering the invocation. Spiritual transformation isn’t something we can do by ourselves, despite our best efforts. We foster atmospheres and cultures where we are open to God, but at the end of the day spiritual transformation is the work of God. It is a mystery and a miracle.

As we journey through Lent to the promise of new life I am encouraged by the fact that it is God who creates the new life. Don’t misunderstand me in this. It takes work from me, too, hard work and discipline and often times courage to risk something new. But to surrender to the mysterious work of God is to surrender to the reality that something good is stirring within me. Just as a caterpillar enters into the chrysalis we, too, enter into a time of serious spiritual reflection, and if we simply rest in God’s presence and let God work, we will emerge transformed and as beautiful as the butterfly.