Grace and Peace to you.
I went to the desert last month. Not out west, but down in Boston. After her surgery, Beth was in the hospital for six days, and I stayed with her in her room and waited on her. For me it was a desert experience, a time when everything else was stripped away and life was reduced to the bare essentials of being present. For six days I retreated from my job and the busy world of multitasking, and entered into the blessed desert sabbath simplicity of monotasking: only doing one thing. I attended to Beth. That was all. Time meant little. There were days when I never even left the room, let alone the hospital. There were nights when I slept little, and days when I never got around to eating. I wasn’t fasting; I was just doing something else.
I’m not saying I was actually wholly attentive. At times I got restless, or distracted, or wanted to do something else. This is not about me, but the experience. It was very meditative. I loved the contemplative focus of just doing one thing, being fully present to Beth, and letting go of everything else. I loved the simplicity of it, the freedom from my wants and attachments. I liked being in that place of deep attentiveness. I didn’t mind if she was crabby or appreciative, or if what she asked of me was a little thing or a real effort. There was just one thing.
This is what Jesus went to the desert for. To each of his temptations he responded by deepening his attention to God. “We live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…” “Do not put God to the test….” “Worship God, and serve God alone.” He was practicing monotasking, so that all he was ever doing was being attentive to God, loving and serving God.
I’m afraid I’ve slipped back into my busy, confused world since the hospital. I am not wholly attentive to Beth, nor to God. I am multitasking again. Whatever I’m doing I seem too often to also be doing something else. So I welcome the the Lenten season, when we go back to the desert. In prayer, fasting and acts of justice and generosity we practice loving attentiveness to God, to others, and to all the world. We stay present to Christ in his suffering, and serve him in all his incarnations, not to accomplish many things, but, in all we do, to love and serve God. God’s love for us becomes our love for others. Blessedly, beautifully, gracefully, our whole lives become one thing: God’s love in us.
May it be so for you this Lenten season.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes