Yesterday was a good morning.
However, I didn’t wake up in that goodness. Instead of warming up to the new light and a wide-open expanse of time on the horizon, I complained. I worried about things that are not my business.
The day changed when I did proper work instead of looking for some elusive solution or another problem to ponder. On a good morning, my work is to read, usually three things that are nourishing. This morning I read an article in Canadian Geographic about Prince Edward Island’s answer to the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. I would like to experience that kind of sustained walk. I read the fourth chapter of Acts from The Message; I came a little late to appreciate Eugene Peterson’s life work. I read a poem from Mary Oliver’s book, Devotion, just because she heals me.
I am always looking.
The Island Walk is a 700-kilometer journey around Prince Edward Island, one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces. The walk was created without particular religious significance unless you appreciate like I do, the legacy of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Anne upended her fictional faith community that is preserved on the Island. The trail promises to “discover a humbling place and to come back different.” I copied down the article author’s sentiment that his portion of the walk left him “with a sense that if I just let things be, I will eventually get where I am going.”
In Acts 4, Peter and John talk back to those authorities that sought to silence them. In the Message translation they answer the religious leaders, “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there’s no question –we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”
What I noticed was that Peter and John didn’t debate the authorities, telling them that they were wrong to condemn Peter and John’s response to God’s spirit. They opened a window. Peter and John did not manipulate or convince or threaten. They simply told the accusers to make up their own minds. But for Peter and John “there’s no question –we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”
I spend precious moments wondering why—why other people think and respond the ways they do—even when I don’t know what I’m doing. Well, I situate my wondering as something other than what it is: I think I want to help but I really want to control; I want clarification when I’m silently judging. What if I was about minding my own work to do?
Maybe the verb should not be that I am looking at what is clearly someone else’s concern. Maybe the verb that describes my best work is to “look” in the present tense, at that moment, just in that moment. My best work is to pay attention, to honour, to see the goodness and grace of God in the sliver of this day that I am in, the part I can touch and that touches me.
So after reading the third nourishing thing, I took a walk to the sea, to a new spot I found hidden behind the marina on the Turkey Head Walkway. I sat on a big rock closest to the tide coming in. I looked at the life that attaches itself to those rocks and adapts to the challenging conditions when the tide is low. The clear water lapped the shore. I sat and watched and listened; I can count on Mary Oliver.
I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall –
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
I prayed that I would recognize my work to do this day. The waiting anemones left me with the sense that I can let other people’s responses be their own.