Recently, I took advantage of the cool spring weather to do some much-needed yard work. Weeding and cleaning flower beds may seem to be routine; however, last year, I struggled with Lyme Disease. Without energy to work outside, weeds took root and flourished, so it was with gratitude for new energy that I tackled the yard.
I have long been informed by the Rule of St. Benedict—the ordinary life shaped by intentional rhythms of work, study and prayer. I am aware that my own life has not always been well balanced; however, last year’s challenges helped to correct that balance. In becoming more aware of my own physical limitations, I have paid attention to, and taken better care of myself—resting more, eating better, saying no to some things. My sense of awareness and prayer life have both deepened. I am more appreciative of the challenges folks with chronic illness have now. I also find myself so grateful to feel good again, returning to a more normal routine.
Two weeks ago, as I tackled weeds and cut back plants that have bloomed, I found myself seeing God in the beauty of creation and praying. The late Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, always told his novices to listen to their bodies and to all of God’s creation. To offer an attitude of respect and reverence for all living things is to be more aware of what God has created. Perhaps I was doing this as I weeded and prayed.
I prayed a prayer of gratitude for improved health that led to kneeling in the good earth. I said prayers for family members. Prayers for someone who has battled MS for years, whose deep spirituality inspires me. Prayers for a parishioner whose debilitating disease now limits her earthly life. Prayers of repose for a parishioner and for comfort for her grieving family. Prayers for young people who have spent two years in a J2A program and for the adults who will also be confirmed or received soon at the National Cathedral. Prayers of gratitude for those who have taught Sunday School or knit prayer shawls or done pastoral care. Prayers for parishioners who have long battled severe depression. Prayers for those who have been emotionally or sexually abused, or both.
Over several days in the yard, I made progress. I made physical progress. By the time I stopped, I had twenty five bags full of yard trash on the curb to be picked up. That is not the end of weeding, of course. In a yard that was carefully attended by the previous homeowner (who was, incidentally, a Master Gardener), there never seems to be an end to what needs attention. Perhaps it is like the spiritual journey, which is on-going, cyclical, full of new challenges and delights. I hope that with my prayers, I also made spiritual progress.
The Benedictines believe that study, work and prayer weave together the fabric of our daily lives. In this divine rhythm, I will keep weeding, cleaning, praying. In the midst of such rhythm, I pray that God’s love will tend the garden of my own life—weeding, nurturing and strengthening me. Out of that garden, I pray I will be able to nurture and strengthen others.
© The Rev. Dr. Sheila N. McJilton
Picture taken by McJilton