Sunday, November 10, 2013

"the place just right..."

"and when we find ourselves
in the place just right..."

Jewel's recording of "Simple Gifts," touched me deeply tonight. I can't hear it without remembering a moment from over fifteen years ago. A single moment of "contact" with another human being. A moment that had a profound impact on me.

It was the middle of November. For over a year, I'd been commuting twice a month from our home in Colorado to Boston. I'd spend the afternoon flying into Logan, and then I'd take a taxi to the office. My life looked on purposeful and right. But something wasn't right. Just below the surface I felt oddly disconnected. It didn't make sense.

I prayed often throughout the day, I was engaged in work I loved, working on a project I believed in, had a beautiful family I adored, a dream house we were renovating, served on the board of our local arts council and ballet, was involved in causes I was passionate about, and served a church community I cherished. This feeling of disconnect had no rational basis. There wasn't anything wrong. In fact, I thought everything was very right. Didn't I "have it all?"

But that day as I rode from Logan to the office -- dressed in my suit and pumps, briefcase filled with reports, day planner on the seat next to me, and a pager at my waistband -- I couldn't shake it. I'd lost touch with something vital. It wasn't just that I was missing my daughter's first Nutcracker rehearsal, that the twins were with their nanny, and I couldn't remember the last time we'd eaten as a family. It was something much deeper.

Inching along Storrow Drive during rush hour traffic I decided to use the time for quiet reflection -- to breathe and enjoy the Boston skyline at twilight -- my favorite time of day. The Charles River was on our right, the Back Bay to our left.

Staring out the window towards the river, I saw a large cardboard box leaning against a cinderblock building. In it were two people. A man and a woman, bundled against the November chill of a rainy Boston afternoon just edging into dusk. Her head was resting in the curve of his shoulder, his arm was around her, and his cheek was leaning against the top of her head. They seemed oblivious to the traffic, the cold, their "situation." There was such a profound look of love, contentment,and peace on his face that it took my breath away.

I will never forget the first thought that came to my heart, as the crest of a sob caught in my throat:

"I want what he has..." 

And I knew it was the truth. More true -- for me -- than anything else at that moment. It wasn't that I was unhappy. I loved my family, I loved my work, I loved my home. But I also thought that I was responsible for maintaining it all. I had to stay alert, be willing, pray without ceasing -- never rest. I longed to be at peace with just trusting God's care for all of us. I ached to know that I could be just as serene if I were living in a cardboard box. That I could be completely oblivious to the mental trafficking of false expectations, ambition, achievement, approval, acceptance. That I could truly lean into Mary Baker Eddy's admonition to:

"Trust Truth,
and have no other trusts."

In a matter of minutes we were beyond that section of Storrow Drive, but I was never the same. The look of deep contentment and peace I saw in that man's eyes -- as he held his partner, in a cardboard box -- has never left me. It has been something I've sought within myself ever since. For me, it is:

"the place just right..." 

I seek it throughout each day. I often return to that moment in the back of a taxi as a touchstone. I ask myself: "Do I need this project, house, person, event, acquisition, accomplishment to tell me I am content, satisfied, at peace with myself, and at one with God? Would I be just as content in a cardboard box on the side of the road? Would my trust in God be just as unwavering and unshaken?"

For me, it's what is at the heart of Mary Baker Eddy's poem, "Satisfied," which begins:

"It matters not
what be thy lot,
so Love doth guide;
For storm or shine,
pure peace is thine,
whate’er betide..."

Each day I pray that whether I am in a cardboard box or a cottage by the sea, with a friend or a stranger, appreciated or vilified, feasting or famished, giving or receiving, blessing or being bless -- I am deeply, profoundly, unwaveringly content because God is with me and nothing else can give me peace, or take from me my right to love. This is my cardboard box prayer -- it never leaves me. And I never leave it.



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