This summer I have been moving books. I just gave twelve boxes to the St. James book sale (starts 9/22) and find that I still have nine more boxes. It’s been an act of discernment. Amid all the sorting, I came across a small book I read over a decade ago: Abandonment to the Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a Roman Catholic priest living in the 17th Century.
This short book has been such a consolation and corrective in these confusing and contentious times. When we look at the trials and tragedies of this world, it’s so easy to despair or shut down. It’s so easy to romanticize the past or hope for some idealized future.
What de Caussade writes however is to root ourselves in this moment. “For what God creates at each moment is a divine thought which is expressed by a thing, and so all these things are so many names and words through which [God] makes known [God’s] wishes.” Elsewhere he writes: “Every moment reveals God to us. Faith is our light in this life….Faith unlocks God’s treasury….it is by faith that God makes [God’s ] presence plain everywhere. Faith tears aside the veil so that we can see the everlasting truth.”
That is, at some point it’s a waste of time simply to lament the state of this world and long for some other time with more noble leaders or more pervasive peace, justice, and mercy. We become like Miniver Cheevy (in the E. A. Robinson poem) who spent his time longing for the times of knights while he failed to notice the glory around him.
Yes, let’s be engaged with the issues of the day. Yes, let’s demand more of our leaders and work for a better world. However, we can work for peace and justice and still attend to the presence of the Holy One in every moment of our lives. “Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” We do that by paying attention.
My vow is to spend less time planning my life or wishing I had a different life and instead living the one I have. I want to talk less about God and pay more attention to God here and now. I am sure that Iona and Assisi are places where I could experience God’s presence, but since I live at 44 Ravenwood Dr. Fletcher, I am looking for God in my backyard.