"What we fail too often to realize is that living fully depends a great deal more on our frame of mind, on our fundamental spirituality, than it does on our physical condition. If we see God as good, we see life as good. If we see God as a kind of sly and insidious Judge, tempting us with good things in order to see if we can be seduced into some sort of moral depravity by them, then life is a trap to be feared." So writes Sister Joan in today's reading.
Today's reading brought to mind the quote that opened the movie, Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick: “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.”
I think it's the last sentence that was hooked and surfaced by my reading of Sister Joan: "And love is smiling through all things." There was a time when I would have brushed aside that sentiment as nothing but sentimentality. The same with the quote above from Sister Joan. I now regard such sentiments as descriptive of what it means to be fully alive. To embody the kind of immediacy that Sister Joan is calling us to.
It is naming the mystery of being fully in the skin of the moment and at the same time feeling an unmistakable sense of transcendence. That experience of losing oneself and being found all at the same time. For too many years I lived with view of God that conditioned me to a sense of "life as a trap to be feared." I have long felt it was Jennifer who sprung me from that trap. Other moments come to mind. Holding our firstborn, Julia, for the first time, her eyes opening to see me, her crying stilled. Being overwhelmed by love that is friendship when sitting at the table of a dear, aged, friend knowing that it may be the last time in this life we will be at table together. Moments when the immediacy of grace was revealed.
Where have those moments been for you? When? With whom? When, whatever moment we may be in feels utterly opaque to the goodness of God...when the way of grace feels completely alien to the path we are on...it is those moments of grace beyond question we need to recall--they are not exceptions to reality. They the touchstones of reality.