Soul Practices: Part 2
Here’s what I know, once in a while at church I get to be the cupbearer. The priest gives me the bread and says, “This is the body, broken for you.” And I ingest it, and I imagine Christ’s body becoming part of mine – and I imagine the other way around, too, mine becoming part of His. This is an important starting place, because the imagination is for this very thing, a practice of the soul in the redemptive work of Christ. Not that his work is imaginary, but rather that it’s an endless metaphor and an actual tangible, real-life thing to be understood in every intimate, physical, and invisible realm of our lives.
Then before handing me the cup, the priest says,”Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation” or “Blood of Christ, poured out for you.” And then I drink it, and I imagine it transforms my own blood and pumps through my veins. It is one-ness. This is why a few weeks ago, we drove through ice for hours just to get home so we could take communion. I don’t believe exactly in transubstantiation (though I edge up as close as possible to it), but the eucharist does feel like my very life. Since I came to faith, when people ask me why I believe, I say I would be dead in every way had I not.
When I have the opportunity to carry the cup behind the priest and look in the eyes of my friends and say those words: “poured out for you, Kendall,” “cup of salvation, Jesse,” I know that something way outside of me is happening, and it undoes me to even be someone who gets to touch it.
You could crown me queen of the universe, and it wouldn’t be sweeter than getting to bear the cup. It is the greatest honor of my life, and if you’ve ever been on a deathbed, then maybe you know what I mean. It is never far from me that addiction used to make all my decisions. Even now I’m crass and ordinary and have a bent toward the gooftaustic. My story has taken some crooked turns, and if there’s a long, wrong way to get anywhere, that’s often what I’ve chosen to do.
Before I tell you about my Soul Practices, I need you to understand, lest you think I’m a non-ordinary woman in love with dogma and rule-keeping, that it’s never far from me that when presented with the opportunity to bear a child out of wedlock, I chose abortion. When presented with the opportunity to endure loneliness in marriage, I chose affection for another man. (You can Wild in the Hollow, if you want to know more about this.)
I have received more from Jesus than these stories can imply, and my Soul Practices literally and figuratively anchor me to Life, to my very breath. Without the practices that root me in the steadfast love of God, I have full faith that my breath would leave my body. Salvation is never a transaction between us and God, but when I didn’t die the day I begged to, this was the exchange I clearly understood. If I want to live, I must abide.
So what do I do, practically, to abide? Of course it changes from time to time, and today I am merely telling you how I get started on ordinary days. Some days I sleep in, but the good days begin like this:
I wake before the birds, when the skyline gives no hint of day. I make coffee and pour a cup as big as my head.
Then I open and open and open.
I open to The Daily Office.
I open my journal and write down the date (fully expecting words to go there).
I open my Bible, and I start with the Psalms. If a verse or a word strikes me, I write it down, or I rephrase it. I read until something sticks in my crawl, something to help me digest the images and ideas and circumstances coming my way. Meditation is always part of my time. I open myself to scripture in the Spirit, and I sit in the quiet with a word in my mouth, and I breathe deeply in – “For your steadfast love is before my eyes,” – and out, “and I walk in YOUR faithfulness,” asking the word to become part of me, asking the word to infuse to my DNA, to transform my mind, my reactions, how I see others, what I fear, and so on.
I plan to read the Daily Office, but sometimes I follow the bunny trails of the Spirit and end up in unexpected places. I ask for prophetic imagination for what I’m reading, to see what it means for today in the lowliest parts of my life and in the broadest cultural spaces. This is what I journal. I journal visions for what I believe the church is meant to be. I journal letters to my sons. I journal confessions out the wazoo.
As I write, it’s more often than not that a deep wound is revealed, something from childhood, some lie with which I’ve agreed and because of which I’ve made misaligned decisions. It seems the more my wounds are revealed by the Spirit, the more I see what I’ve yet to surrender, is the more healed and free and fearless I become. And behind one wounding tends to be ten more woundings and a hundred more woundings after that, and with a hundred surrendered woundings are a thousand ways I have been loved and known. The revelations and transformations never stop for a believer, if we continue the life of abiding, a life of surrender and trust. The more I breathe out confession, the more awake I am to my need and to the needs of the world around me.
Lord, why do I have such a hard time being gentle with Seth and the boys?
Because you have a hard time receiving my gentleness toward you.
This is my very breath. I don’t know how to be a person without it, unless I’m a person spiraling toward my death.
Let this post only be to encourage you and never to make you feel like you aren’t doing enough. There is no striving here. The spiritual practices to me are practices of trust, and trust may be the thing I’m the least naturally inclined to do.
May you trust him, ingest him, confess to him, and receive him. This is how to be who we really are. Kingdom Come.
For Part 1 of Spiritual Practices, read here.