Wednesday, June 09, 2010

mailing list of life

I was reaching for something the other day when Dean pointed at my arm and said, "Hey, that's new!" He was referring to the triceps swinging lazily in a stretchy hammock of skin under my arm. Yes, they are new! They arrived recently without me even having to order them! Other old lady body parts have been showing up as well, all free of charge! Isn't that amazing? Do you like them? I hope so, because I'm not sure I can return them.

Despite what plastic surgeons and cosmetic manufacturers would have us believe, it is impossible to get off the "Old Person Body Parts" mailing list once you are on it. Packages show up at random and unexpected times. One day you are putting on your clothes and Surprise! Here are your new larger and longer buttocks! Or you may be just sitting there reading a book and Voila! Your hands have been upgraded to the new super-wrinkle skin and hey, here's some bonus brown accent spots! I can honestly say that some days it is hard not to get discouraged by all the free and unsolicited upgrades.

Last night I finished reading another book about Evelyn Underhill, an early twentieth century author who popularised the study of mysticism in England and who is the topic of my master's thesis. After reading much of her first book on mysticism, an early work of her fiction, and one biography, I wasn't sure why I had thought the woman would be an interesting subject. She was scattered, opinionated without being totally informed, had a tendency to overwrite, was pretty dated in her concepts, and seemed to lack passion (which for me, is a must in a mystic). Then I read the last two chapters of a biography by Christopher Armstrong, and saw something different. After years of struggling with doubt, jealousy, and self-judgment, she let go of her self-occupation. She moved from introspection of herself to adoration of the Absolute. She no longer sought after mystical experiences; she simply and humbly offered herself to Him. Everything else became incidental.

"...the individual must lose his life to find it: the longing for personal expression, personal experience, safety, joy, must more and more be swallowed up in Charity. For the goal of Christian sanctification and Christian worship is the ceaseless self-offering of the Church, in and with Christ her head, to the increase of the glory of God." (from Worship by Evelyn Underhill, p. 82)

Evelyn Underhill's journey finally took off when she was in her mid-forties and began to practice self-forgetfulness. She deliberately took her eyes off herself and her petty imperfections and set them on Christ. She wrote of a new awareness, deep and clear, of the all-penetrating presence and love of God. She became a person who friends said carried an aura of peace and radiance with her.

As I continue on this journey of life, things will inevitably change. Some periods of life are more challenging than others in that regard. As I grow older, may my self-preoccupation decrease and my God-awareness increase. May I look at my life and my body with eyes of love as I live more and more in the presence of the supreme Lover. May I be giddy with thankfulness at every day that is given to me and not miss the multitude of blessings that lie hidden within it. May I not hide life's changes in shame, but wear them with grace and dignity. May I bring a sense of beauty and peace wherever I go because I am always with the Beautiful Prince of Peace.

This is one of my new hands. I think I'll keep it.

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