We had over 55 centimeters of snow this month, most in the last week, an astounding record for my island home in the Pacific Northwest This is the view outside my back window. I love snow and the peacefulness of it’s falling. I cherish the chance to burrow safely inside. The evenings have been unusually bright with the illuminating snow cover. My friend here said she felt like a real Canadian now, instead of being associated with the usually temperate climate of Southern Vancouver Island.
For the past several days, I have stayed close to home. I’ve watched more TV than should be allowed and I’ve created meals from the bounty in my pantry to avoid going to the grocery store. The days have melted together, one indistinguishable from another.
Throughout the snowy week, I have avoided two dinner parties and coffee with friends and it was a relief. I struggle with the many invitations I receive and with the obligation I feel to reciprocate. I want the encounter to be more casual or spontaneous. Lately, I seem to have lost the desire to welcome that I thought I was finally cultivating where I used to live.
On one of my most recent cold mornings, what should have been a promise turned disheartenedly into a dilemma as I prayed a morning Psalm.
May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans. (Ps. 20:5)
I have no desires or plans, I thought. Could that be true? I came face to face with the realization that I continue to define my life by a job or a career or a passionate role—even though I have written, read, and prayed against this stance for much of my adult life. Writing is a spiritual practice that takes me places I don’t know to go. And, on this day, at least 30 minutes of my too-much television viewing elucidated the possibilities I’d worked out through my morning pages.
One of the television shows I watch occasionally is Big Bang Theory. On a recent rerun, Penny reacts to her boyfriend Leonard’s passion for a TV show he wants to share with her. In a conversation with another member of their friends’ group, Bernadette, Penny laments that she doesn’t get that passionate about anything in her life.
Bernadette: Why does this bother you so much?
Penny: I don’t know. It’s just, he’s so passionate about so many different things. I just don’t get that way. Do you?
Bernadette: Well, sure. I’m pretty passionate about science. I remember the first time I looked through a microscope and saw millions of tiny microorganisms. It was like a whole other universe. If I wanted to, I could wipe it out with my thumb like a god.
Penny: See? I wish I had some of that fire in my life. I mean, I want to care about things and get excited like you guys.
Bernadette: Well, there’s no reason you can’t.
Penny: You think?
Bernadette: Absolutely. All we need to do is spend a little time and find something you’re passionate about.
Penny: Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work.
Penny is a brilliant character choice in this line-up. You see, all the other people in this close group of friends are accomplished scientists with the most advanced degrees and engaging research agendas that permeate their everyday interactions. Penny is a waitress at the local Cheesecake Factory and occasionally aspiring actress whose character continually butts up against the intellectual milieu and social ineptitude of the other characters. In this particular episode, the theme is re-conditioning or a kind of regeneration of sorts. Culminating this part of the story, Penny and her boyfriend Leonard revisit her lament with new insight.
Penny: See, that’s the kind of passion I didn’t think I had. But then I realized I’m passionate about you.
Leonard: Oh, my cute little tushy strikes again.
Penny: No, I’m serious. Look, I’ve always had these plans. I was gonna be in movies and live this glamorous life, and anything less than that just wasn’t worth getting excited about.
Leonard: Those things can still happen.
Penny: Oh, obviously it’s gonna happen. Yeah, a psychic at a bachelorette party told me so. Anyway, what I meant was, I shouldn’t wait, you know? I’ve got you, I’ve got Sheldon, all these wonderful friends. My life is exciting right now.
Leonard: That’s a big deal.
Penny: It is, isn’t it?
Leonard: So, does that mean we get to do stuff like talk about cool shows or get dressed up in matching costumes and go to Comic-Con?
Penny: Leonard, I had an epiphany, not a stroke.
Penny epiphany was far from looking at her life through a lens of grace or was it? Her desire and plans for a career will unfold, however, she shouldn’t wait to be passionate about the lives and relationships that enable her abundant living in the here and now. When I pondered my response to this verse in the Psalms in my writing pages, like Penny, I saw more clearly what was right in front of me.
So back to my desires and plans. I want to have a more healthy and whole relationship with my family—my son, my daughter, and my husband. I want to be less guarded with other people. I want to love God by honoring these people that are closest to me and not spend my imagination considering how they might live. My desire is to take myself off the hook and let them figure out the weakness and strength of a thing in their own way and in their own good time.
In response to the invitations to coffee, to dinners, to tea, and walks to explore this community, being gracious is not difficult. I don’t have to be an extrovert; I can be myself. According to the Rule of Benedict, humility is the admission of God’s gifts to me and to use these gifts for and with others.
Almighty God, to you my heart is open, all desires known, and from you, no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.