I used to believe that I was a contemplative. I’m not.
Contemplatives have the gift of time. Two years ago I was an artist, a sensitive soul who needed frequent moments, even hours of reading, studying, thinking and imagining. Two years ago I was also a new immigrant and it was illegal for me to work. My husband had a new job to which he needed to devote many hours. I was in a new city with few friends. We had no children and no money. We were rich in love and I was rich in time. The perfect ingredients for a contemplative life.
Now I that I am a more established immigrant with friends and interests and work; and a mother to the best little one-year-old, I am thirsty for moments of contemplation, thirsty for hands-free moments to write, for quiet and unguarded moments to think. Where before those moments lay before me like a wide lake, I now must lap them up in puddles when the rains come.
All of this to say, never have I felt so unprepared, so ‘meh’ on an Easter Sunday.
During my contemplative years, I often searched my heart weeks before Lent. What would I give up? What were my motives? I contemplated up and down as I prepared my heart to prepare my heart for Easter.
(A part of me is jealous of that lady with all the time and headspace she needed, a part of me is thankful for the gift of this reality check.)
This year, I was vaguely aware Lent was coming and spent twenty minutes on Facebook scrolling through what other people were giving up/reading/thinking about Lent. I couldn’t get there myself. We spent the months of February and March sick about once a week with all kinds of things passed onto us by our daughter’s nursery school germs. (We’re still waiting for chicken pox, aka. waterpokken, to happen to us, but we’ve got both Fifth and Sixth Diseases down.)
I was too sick and distracted to think about fasting from food or Facebook. Or devoting an hour every day to contemplation. It was all about the survival. And we certainly didn’t feel like the fittest our eighth time in bed, looking at each other through bloodshot eyes and taking turns ranking our health in order to see whose turn it was to take care of the baby.
‘I’m a six today. I have a fever and my throat hurts, but I don’t have the body ache I did yesterday.’
‘You take her then. I’m a four. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.’
This kind of marital honesty is the true test of personal integrity. In sickness and in health.
There is a feeling of relief in confessing that I cannot force a quick understanding of the Resurrection or a moment of intimacy with the Risen Lord. Even after all of these years of belief. This year I experienced Easter not in terms of a deep contemplative knowing of the resurrection and the life, but in the small pink ballet shoes that are now the length of my hand. To glory in an interrupted five-minute talk with a friend after the service, to unwrap a package of Peeps my mom sent me in the mail.
I did not contemplate well this year, I confess to God. I could not absorb your risenness in the way I wanted to.
I did enjoy infant eyes, new blue wonder at me over her mother’s shoulder during singing. My baby girl sighs with satisfaction at the end of her nap. Much better we both breathed out. Ham sandwiches and potato salad, a promise of Skype conversations with family. I ached, missing my context, my history, my ever-loving Florida family. I enjoyed how he looked in a crisp white shirt. His handsome profile. Our arms around each other as we sing the words from our wedding, ‘no guilt in life, no fear of death, this is the power of Christ in me.’ Her elbow dimpled arms around his neck.
My world is smaller.
And He is saying, Give up your strivings. Live the life my death has made possible. Enjoy your ham and peeps.
The Non-Contemplative (for now)