New Years’ resolutions often breed moments of disappointment. This year, I ambitiously challenged myself to read a book a week. Things were going great in January and February as I maintained my goal and sailed through the agreed upon number of books. I hit a bit of a snag in March but continued to read at a fairly good clip.
In April, I came across Mark Nepo’s devotional book, The Book of Awakening, and hit a larger snag. Devotional books like these are not meant to be read straight through; the publisher usually intends for it to read like the calendar with each day assigned a new snippet of universal wisdom. I wanted to read it all and keep moving through my resolution, but the book I chose had another idea.
The book follows the author’s turbulent battle with cancer. As someone who appreciates eloquence in writing, I found each revelation touched a place in my heart I had not yet considered could be related to the experience of having lived through cancer. I have not — but I’ve witnessed a great many men and women face this challenge head on. I wanted to rush and turn, page after page, through Nepo’s words strewn out on each line and wrap myself in his patience and hopefulness. I didn’t, though. I’m still wading through it.
In the book’s introduction the author writes about “being gentle and raw and eager to bottle light for those suffering in the darkness” as he suffered. As summer turns to fall and as the academic new year begins, you are invited to enter this work to explore our universal desire and ongoing need to remain “vital and in love with this life, no matter the hardships we encounter.” Through his writings, Nepo brings to us “pain and wonder and the mystery of love.”
Nepo’s writings point the reader toward mindfulness. We are reminded that our lives are made up of a series of days not meant to be rushed; in each of those days are moments we are challenged to approach with “gratefulness, wisdom, clarity, kindness, and a passionate enthusiasm.” Living becomes sacramental.
From Romans 12:1-2 we are reminded to, “take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for God. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what God wants from you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you and develops well formed maturity in you.” (The Message)
We are surrounded by messages like “live in the moment” that seemingly correct our willingness to speed through this life. Taking those words and placing them in the illumination of Nepo’s writing connects both our culture and our spirituality. Coasting through the days we’ve been given is not the answer just as much as bending them to meet our selfish needs will only produce disappointment. To live in the moment means to be fully involved, inspired, and intrigued with our “everyday, ordinary” lives.
Blessings to you.
– Minister of Congregational Life