Thursday, March 8, 2012


Nothing makes me tremble with fear and hide under a desk like having dental work done.  When I went in for my emergency c-section with our first child and was told I might not make it through, I thought, "huh, well here goes nothing, Lord."  When I just thought I might possibly need a root canal a couple years ago (turned out to be a lingering sinus infection, oddly enough), I cried like a baby for over an hour.  My most dreaded recurring nightmare is that chewing gum gets stuck in my teeth and trying to extract it pulls all my teeth out.

When I was pretty certain that I needed that root canal, I had to prepare myself for over a month before going to the dentist.  Now this fear has nothing to do with my amazing dentist or my new friend at the endodontist.  It is a purely irrational fear that began as a child because no matter how much I brushed and flossed, I seemed to always have a cavity.  Seriously, if I were a horse, no one would buy me.  Good thing I'm not a horse.  And good thing I don't live a couple centuries ago, or I'd already have a mouth full of wooden teeth.  Yikes!

After Quinn being sick, getting my first root canal, and speaking in chapel this week I already feel completely drained.  Add the typical end of quarter flurry of deadlines and suddenly motivated students, and not only did I hit snooze twice this morning, I spent at least ten solid minutes whining under the covers.  I was even smugly satisfied with the dreary weather, thinking to myself, "ha! take that world!" as if I had any meaningful say in today's weather.

I departed my normal quiet time routine and spent time in the Psalms and reading prayers from The Valley of Vision.  It was good to meditate on my need of Christ and my complete unworthiness this morning, not because I was already moody but because I needed to be grounded in truth - but not the cold truth of theology.  I needed the warm living truth of prayer, supplication, and praise.  I don't need a routine or an agenda or an extra shot of espresso, just heaps and heaps and heaps of grace to cultivate an unhurried and unflustered heart.

Recently I remembered an old German philosopher I read in college who said something to the effect of, "we keep ourselves so busy because if we stopped, we would realize that we're standing on nothing."  I think I've quoted him before, but I'm beginning to notice that the state of my heart, not the state of my life is more important.  A flustered heart that is not centered on Christ leads me to create drama where it does not exist, to exaggerate offenses, and magnify self.  And I could do a lot of that this week (see the intro to this post as an example).  

I think it was in his book Seeds of Contemplation that Thomas Merton spoke about cultivating a contemplative spirit, even in the midst of a busy life.  Such a person has a heart receptive to God's spirit, no matter what the external circumstances look like.  Knowing how quickly my own heart falls into sin and despair when I get out of routine or focus on the work that needs to be done around me, I find that one of my new prayers is to develop a heart capable of stillness in the midst of stress, both real and imaginary.  

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