In her book, An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor tells that she was invited to speak at a church in the Southern United States. She asked her host, “What do you want me to talk about?”
“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” was the priest’s reply.
“It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to try to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”
What is saving my life now?
Today my answer might not be the same as yesterday and some practices or promises that save me endure. Yet, some circumstances challenge those answers and there is nothing I can do except pray and trust— but what happens when my what if’s drown out those prayers. The things that are saving me often are quotidian rather than those traditionally held notions.
Yesterday, anxious and worried, I cleaned the bathroom. I mean I really cleaned in the full knowledge that it won’t stay that way. I will not change the cycle of soap scum and aging grout. Faithfully, I cared for what I could affect. I gave my whole body and mind to the transformation of tub and tile.
My cleaning is a prayerful act. My fears and anxiousness were taken over by scrubbing and rinsing away the grit and grime. I know all too well the cycle of worry that has to be cleared away again and again. That physical devotion didn’t change my troubling circumstances but the mindful work allowed me to “let go and let God” as the saying goes—even for an hour or so.
I can rest in the familiarity and the comfort that comes from doing something with clear focus and maybe even love. What is saving my life right now harks back to an open ear—to listen for God in everything I do; for where God is, in spite of and in the midst of our most quotidian of lives.