Sunday, March 31, 2019

laundry day is sacred

A motivational speaker once relayed to a crowd of high schoolers the words of his wife to him in the midst of his desolation: Include me, and don’t shut me out—which I think are the words of the father in today’s Gospel, and the honest cry of most parents (and people), and the primary key to prayer.

Well, of course I’ll pray, but prayer will smooth the surface of the water, and ignore the churning tangle of tides underneath. Prayer will be the blanket I place over the bric-a-brac I've thrown into the wicker basket, it will be the shoving into the closet all the dirty clothes spilling out of my hamper onto the floor.

Prayer will be the mental level I drag myself up to—an effort to present myself as presentable to myself. All the unpresentable, sordid scraps of self are exceptions, they are what I should stuff away, drop off at the cleaners later, and then continue to ignore. Maybe laundry will eventually be abolished and I will never have to look at dirty clothes again, I hope.

But laundry—clean and dirty—is sacred, I realize, when I am "wasting precious time" doing my laundry when I ought to be writing. Having to drag my laundry out of my building, pay with money, and do the laundry myself makes me huff and puff with annoyance, until I realize that this is the more "natural" way to clean things then sticking them in a washing machine in my basement, and I should be grateful I have a laundromat instead of the Hudson River.

Life is the dirty laundry. Life is really about having things and then constantly cleaning them, making them shine. Even religious orders in radical solidarity with the poor—the Missionaries of Charity, the CFRs—own habits. Their white saris glisten miraculously pure and white in the hot Bengal summer sun; a brother's worn habit appears as a veritable crazy quilt of patches, each one of them an icon of loving-kindness: how good it is to be patched and not thrown away!

The more you have things, the more you have to clean and care and patch them to keep them sparkling.

If that's the rhythm of living, there must be something sacred about it. And prayer is about being alive within that, not trying to manufacture a holier life outside of it.

God is not in that manufactured holiness you've conjured, he is here: in the loneliness of your One AM bedroom, as you contemplate how to go to sleep: worshiping the god of your own emptiness, or allowing yourself to be filled by the God who doesn't want your imaginary life, but wants this one, here—right now.  This is the moment you choose God. This is not the exception to all the other times in which you do a great job choosing God. This is where God longs to meet you. In this moment of decision, which is not a curious side-show to the life he has made you, but is the very heart of the narrative, the hellish singularity of your existence he has come to harrow. This moment is the life that he has designed and given to you—woven of the longings of all twenty-seven year olds and all the desires that cause tears and moans and pain and simply asks that, in the midst of them, you realize God is the one who seeks to live in your heart in these moments, too. God is the one who desires madly to be included, always, and never shut out.

No comments:

Post a Comment