Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
–Matthew 6:33 MSG
How ironic is it that, having “left all” to follow Christ reassured of His whole presence with us, we find ourselves floundering to live from our “center” rather than our fears? Distracted by obligations, work pressures and family necessities, we struggle to find those quiet spaces where burdens may be laid down, rest found, and gaze lifted to God. But is this what constitutes “living from my center”? If so, I might be doomed.
Last night, reading from I Timothy 1:5-7, a phrase sang to me like lyrics to a familiar song I forget I know. “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love…a life open to God” (MSG). A life open to God…to His movement toward me, His directions and purposes for me, His loving gaze settled on me. Could the start of “centered living” really be that simple?
Weavings editor, John S. Mogabgab, writes of the Mary and Martha story that the Lord never criticized Martha for her active service (but so many of us interpret His words this way, which leaves us with deep dilemmas). Rather, His concern settles on the fact that she is “‘anxious and troubled about many things’ (v. 41 RSV) her service is ‘distracted’ (v. 40), and it is this anxious, driven service that Jesus contrasts with the ‘one thing that is needful’ (v. 42) which is Mary’s attentiveness.”1 What if this story is not about choosing one or the other: a life of contemplation and stillness over against a life of active service. What if, instead, it is about an invitation to come back to center, moving out of distracted living and simply opening ourselves to God by giving Him our attention?
Attentiveness to God fosters simplicity. Like the tiny mustard seed of Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:31-32), attentiveness may seem a small thing amidst all our important tasks and ambitions. Yet planted and nurtured in our daily life, attentiveness becomes a sheltering tree in which all our diverse concerns find their proper place.2
I love that. “Our diverse concerns find their proper place.” No need to fret or try to make things fit. No need to work our fingers to the bones wondering if we’ll be ok. Just turn my body towards the God who is with me and open my heart’s door. It’s enough. God works with small gifts just like that.
Fr. Pedro Arrupe puts it like this:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.3
That’s simplicity. That’s life lived from the center…and it starts by opening ourselves to God.
ACTION: What causes you to be distracted and anxious as you begin this new year? How would it feel to set those aside for a few minutes and turn towards Jesus? Who is it you see when you look at Him? If you have a minute more, let the beauty of this video, the peace of it, invite you to set down your burdens and turn your gaze to God.
1 Weavings Volume V, Number 3. May/June. 1990, page 2
2 Weavings Volume V, Number 3. May/June. 1990, page 3
3Quote is commonly attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe