I often think that I want God to show up. But over and over I find that the person who needs to show up is me. – from “Alise…Write!”
These powerful words were written by a woman reflecting on those little moments in her life where a slight shift in her attention opened up her awareness to the presence of the divine in her life. A particularly poignant passage describes an afternoon picking blueberries with her children:
My children are picking in another row. I hear their conversation – did you try this Minecraft mod, look at how many berries I have now, do we have any hair bands. The sun beats down on us, and I lament the fact that I forgot to spray us with SPF 30 before we walked out the door that morning. But as I pick, pick, pick the berries, each one softly landing with the others to fill my pail, my mind quiets and I am filled with peace. Maybe not the peace that passes all understanding, but at least a peace that passes a modicum of understanding. Today, my sanctuary is among the blueberry bushes, my altar, the sound of my children making memories.
Ultimately, that is what sacred space, chapel and liturgy are meant to serve: a change in awareness. The altar bedecked in flowers. The deep quiet of those gathered. The silent lighting of the seven candles. Lifting our voices in sacred song. The words that speak of opening the heart to the life of the world – all of this is there for re-orientation, for aiding us in aligning our consciousness with the sacred reality that is life itself. That we need this – or any help at all – is such an amazing fact! We forget who we truly are; we forget our soul’s true home. It would seem that we are all, by our very nature, prodigals. In that story, too, we can find the turning point:
So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘
The shift is so subtle, so hidden, that we can miss it, but it is that moment where it says, “when he came to himself.” That is the moment he remembers his divine origin, the ‘place’ where true nourishment can be found, where he will live. The Greek word here is even stronger because it uses the term ‘eis’, meaning ‘into’ rather than just ‘to’ himself. At this place of emptiness, the one who finds himself so ‘far’ from his true origin finds the path back by coming into himself. Cindy Hindes describes this path of remembering who we truly are, of coming to ourselves beautifully in her blog on Luke 15 here:
“In the story of the lost son, He shows us that we need not passively wait to be found or rescued. We are not coins; we are not sheep. There is a third way; we ourselves can recognize ourselves as lost and hungry and far from home. And we can make our own, sometimes difficult, journey back.”
And the secret to this “journey” is connected to this one simple first step: come into your self, come into this present moment – shift your attention in this way and you will find the altar among the blueberries too.