There should be in the soul halls of space, avenues of leisure and high porticos of silence, where God walks.

–Jeremy Taylor

Sentences like this wake up my imagination. Vivid colors take me to “avenues of leisure” and “porticos of silence.” A Rivendell type oasis filled with both wild and cultivated gardens and sparkling streams.

Learning to garden at the Garden House has surprised me. I had no idea how long it would take to cultivate spaces that move with designed life. I thought it would happen after the first season. But instead, it’s taken four years of planting, pulling, wondering, pulling the wrong things, replanting the right things in the wrong location, transplanting them, and watching many things die while others blossomed. In short, a mature garden that’s beautiful has to be cultivated.

Soulish leisure is like that. It takes a while for it to become beautiful.

Leisure “becomes” when we accept the invitation to be “present to the presence of God, and only in this present moment is God present” (Michael Mayne). He goes on to say, “We are forever pushing through the present moment so that we hardly ever live in it. The wiser choice is to give each moment our full attention.” Mayne reminds us that Jesus didn’t speak much about people “seeing God,” but “over and over again he pictured God at the heart of ordinary experience.”

I’m caught by that phrase, ”over and over.” What I see in that phrase is me on hands and knees going over the same ground, pulling the same weeds, remarking once again at the blue sky, feeling sweat trickle down my neck…again. Why do I do this? The answer is really very simple. I love flowers. And I discover as I work with the soil that I am being grounded, taught, and invited to a reordering of my loves, a reorientation of my beliefs. The urgencies of work are felt a little more dimly as I enter the mystery at my fingertips. Why does one grow and the other die? Why do the weeds grow straight in the heart of the flower? What can I do to make growth better, easier? What is this thing that has landed and taken up residence on the leaf? In this growing space, curiosity perceives and makes friends with mystery. Entering mystery opens up the path in which I should go.

This is not an easy path for 21st century, technologically evolving, productively minded people.

For us to truly embrace leisure we must give in to the longing to be with Jesus in a curiously slow manner. We’ll find ourselves in consternation and irritation until we get used to the fact that He wanders down winding paths, in no hurry to set us on the productive road, accomplishing our growth forthwith.

Ah, but when we clumsily give ourselves to the present moment and whatever it holds, when we keep allowing curiosity to pull us further up and further in, when mystery becomes more friend than foe, we find a very different interior place from which to live.  We become “spiritually aware, able to give attention to the world, its people and its Creator in the process of learning to love.” And we find ourselves looking at life with more roominess, spaciousness… leisureliness. Surprised, we discover porticos of silence and avenues of leisure with big, great spaces of beauty where God dwells that we didn’t even know were there. And we are deeply glad.

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