“Keep it simple Mary.” Those were the words that appeared in cloud-white letters against the distant blue-gray background of my mind; and those were the words breathed softly into my hearing.
I stopped peddling and I stopped praying. I opened my eyes. “Keep it simple Mary,” I whispered. I knew those words were a gift…a divine gift.
I wish I could say that I pray every day, but I can’t. I work at trying to be consistent and disciplined; but I am guilty of letting my priorities slip, allowing goals to fade into the background of my life, and excusing myself from doing something important because of how I feel on any given day. I am like a wave in the ocean. My strength and size depends on the condition of my world. Sometimes I flow gently to shore lingering to sample the sand and deposit small gifts – little treasures from the depths of my being. Other days I rush upon the shore without regard, hardly noticing its existence, and then hastily pull away retreating into the thunderous activity of a great disturbing sea.
For more years than I can remember I have been trying to appropriate the different parts of myself and my life. My thought was this: If I could organize, shelve, and label all the parts of me and the life I was experiencing, then I could step back and view it all from a distance. With everything in order and in front of me I would be able to make sense of my being. I would be able to see myself and God clearly and understand who and what I am and He is.
My desperate desire to understand everything fuels my need for simplicity and drives my propensity for organization (even when I pray). You see, like me (I thought), God will not understand my prayers unless they are delivered in the proper form; so - like so many other things in my life – praying tends to become a frustrating and arduous undertaking. Thus I find myself feeling inadequate, mumbling words to someone I am not sure is listening, probably bored to tears, and wishing I would just shut up.
My mind is so seldom calm. It seems that when my body is still my thoughts act like thundering waves crashing against a cliff; but when my body is in motion my mind is transformed into a slow tide gently sliding onto the beach, serenely caressing the shore.
It took years for me to make this discovery.
Eventually though, as my youthful vigor began to diminish I had to give up my quest to organize myself into the state of peace I longed for. I was exhausted, disillusioned, and lost in a maze I could not escape from. But God in His divine patience waited for me. He knew that eventually I would lack the strength and will to continue the struggle. Age has a way of discouraging unnecessary activity.
In my busy abstract reality I would often forget that God’s call is usually no more than the hint of a breeze, one tiny drop of rain, a passing thought, an unusual dream…or words that zip past in my mind like the message on a billboard. God speaks in a way that only the one who hears will know that He has spoken. And sometimes His message is time released. I usually did not know my steps had been guided until I reached my destination.
A few years ago while shopping at Wal-Mart I saw an Elliptical Machine. I told my husband I wanted one. I could see myself using this machine. My husband on the other hand believed I would benefit more from a stationary bike. We discussed the pros and cons. His fear was that it would become a clothes rack, and therefore a waste of money. Normally – after some thought I would probably have agreed with him and forgotten the idea. But for some reason I could not get this one out of my mind. I really wanted that machine.
I love my elliptical machine. I like the fact that I can stand and pedal with ease as I look at the Holly Tree and the thicket of Bamboo growing outside my window. I like exercising while the sound track form the movie PASSENGERS flows from my IPod and into my ears. For 30 minutes I can shut out the rest of the world. My mind becomes still and I am able to find that space between heaven and Earth, where God waits for me to sit at His feet…that space where I can speak to Him without confusion, and only His words fill my mind, heart, and soul.
Who could have known that an elliptical machine from Wal-Mart could open a doorway to another dimension? Who knew it would allow me to access that space between Heaven and Earth where God waited just for me? I wonder how I failed for so long to truly understand that He not only wanted to hear my prayers, but He also wanted to speak to me.
Prayer is essential to my life as a Christian. And through my personal struggles, trying to balance the chaos of just an ordinary life, I need that special place where God waits for me. That place where I alone can sit at His feet – where I can have His undivided attention, and He can have mine. That is where He takes my burdens, soothes my soul, and softly speaks the words I need to hear.
“Keep it simple….” Simple words that encompassed the whole of my life and helped me find clarity for that moment, and every moment that I remember them.
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door; pray to you Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”