I have a new spiritual discipline, and it is called “Real Housewives of NYC.” I’ve been spending a bit more time with Bethenny and the girls, as well as the cast of “Nobodies”, and Vivian Howard, from “A Chef’s Life.” Time spent in front of the television has been a semi-purposeful spiritual practice for me lately, and I’m happy to tell you why. In the not-so-distant past, I have met the circumstances I can’t change with a kind of frustration-fueled fervor. I have used my rosary beads to move the immovable, and used novenas to push for results. Though I know that Mary and her Son hear me, and that they act for me, you could say that my disposition while praying these prayers sometimes borders on desperate and controlling. The hidden, unconscious theory/formula/hypothesis in my head: the more Hail Marys, the more likely my desired outcome in a given circumstance. I guess you could even say that these prayers come from a place of supposed sovereignty, a place that only God should hold. The faulty idea that my incessant, relentless prayers will change things doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for trust in a loving, merciful God who is always at work on our behalf.
When I was a kid, we had a little four-foot pool in our backyard, and we spent our summertime divided between it, neighborhood street games, and walks to the corner store for grape hubba bubba. In the pool, my sisters and I would sometimes walk around and around the diameter in the same direction, making what we called a “whirlpool” upon which we could float for a few seconds. It was a big stress on the outer walls of the pool, and so it was something we never did when our Dad was around. When he was around and in the pool, he sometimes stood in the middle, linked our arms, supported our backs, and spun us around on the surface of the water like a minute hand on a clock. It felt like what I imagined water-skiing must feel like, and it took no effort on my part at all. The momentum kept us moving, the water kept us up, and our father kept us safe.
Now that I live in deeper water, spiritually speaking, I find myself changing up my response to circumstances that frighten, confuse, and stress me. I don’t want to flail and splash like someone who doesn’t believe God is in control. I don’t wish to strain myself looking for the nearest boat. I’m not always strong enough or focused enough to walk on water with Jesus in those moments. Sometimes I just need to float and wait it out, trusting that my Father has me. That’s where television comes in. It’s one of very few ways my over-active, worried brain is able to rest, but it’s not the only one. Running, walking, yoga, podcasts…these will all work in a pinch.
And while I love the rosary, I’ve taken a bit of a break from it lately, leaning more on scripture-reading, silence, meditations, and Bible studies as spiritual disciplines. The rosary can be, for me, like ‘Connect Four’, where I deposit my prayers in slots toward intended results. Until I can let my own will and voice take the second place, and experience all those Hail Marys as the communion with Jesus and His Mother that I know they can be, I’m letting God’s word speak louder than my own voice. I am aiming at praying ‘Thy will be done’, and actually meaning it. I want His word to fill me up so completely that it becomes how I think, feel, and react. Until then, I would describe this season as a bit of a spiritual ‘float’, with a splash of those wacky NYC housewives to help my poor busy brain power down.
Today, I’m floating, trusting, and waiting, and not in the hand-wringing way I’ve always done it before. I’m resting, letting the sun warm me while my Father supports me and mine. When it’s time to swim, or walk, or board a boat, He’ll let me know. After all, it’s not up to me to steer. It never was.