encounter the divine in the mundane
Advent is a proverbial time of waiting in the darkness for the birth of the Christ Child. It is a time to silently listen in expectation as well as a time to sweep away the clutter in our hearts and souls by simplifying our lives to make room for a re-birth in our own hearts for this child called Jesus. Often we are so busy with preparing for Christmas celebrations that we have little time to listen to God or our fellow-man but if we take the time to practice this art of listening to other people, we will meet the divine at the same time.The biggest stumbling block to truly listening is our self-important business. Henri Nouwen S.J., Jesuit author, university prof, complained to God about all the students who came to his office, interrupting his writing of an important book. God’s answer?
“I just gave you that book to write to keep you busy in between appointments; your real work is all those interruptions.”
No matter what our occupation, we tend to think that our work, our agenda is important. It is almost in our nature to let ambition and drive push other people to the fringes of our awareness while we toil in an isolated bubble of self-importance. There are many methods that can shake us out of this selfish obsession but for me as a mother, it was my children.
“Mum, mum! Come see what I made!”
“Can you read me a book?”
“I tried and tried but it just won’t stay together.”
“Mum, can we talk?”
“Would you help me edit this essay? It’s due tomorrow.”
“Let’s do something together.”
Of course sometimes children need to learn patience, learn to wait but I discovered that usually their needs were immediate. Even if a problem seemed minor to me, it was monumental to one of my little people. A block tower which took 30 minutes to build and 30 seconds for a toddler to destroy was equal to an adult’s business deal that took 3 weeks to set up and a day to fall apart. Brushing off their concerns was often a temptation.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Don’t over react.”
“Not now. I am busy.”
“Can’t you see that what I am doing is more important?”
To respond to my kids or in the case of any adult, to respond to interruptions to work, requires surrendering to the duty of the moment. To respond to an interruption often means we must put our agenda to the side for a moment and embrace the agenda of another person. If we refuse the call to love, we miss out on a meeting with the divine because when we serve the least of our brethren, we serve Christ himself. When we listen to a child, giving him all of our attention, we are discovering how to listen to the divine voice of the Christ Child as well.