by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM September 7, 2019
We drop many things: toast on the kitchen floor; soap in the shower; pens and Smart phones almost anywhere. Sometimes the things we drop aren’t easily retrieved or restored, like keys down a storm drain grate; a toddler’s stuffed giraffe on its way down a swirling toilet; a cast-off or shattered relationship.My reflecting on the things we drop is largely a consequence of a post-surgical reality, the repeated warning not to bend over to pick up anything for fear of displacement of bones or metal. What to do, then, with the salad greens that have tumbled onto the floor or the paper copy the printer has spit out and that landed, of course, just beyond one’s reach? Enter the amazing and helpful Grabber, a long, stick-like device that can be viewed as an extension of one’s arm and that can latch onto and retrieve almost anything. Skilled as it is, though, the Grabber, like our lives, has its limitations in restoring to a rightful place what one has dropped.
I used to quickly bend over and automatically scoop up whatever had tumbled onto the floor. In my new normal, my restrictions have offered me a fresh perspective. I find myself pausing and finding a deeper meaning in the things we drop. This may sound like a shrinking of one’s worldview, but it’s actually an expansion, a challenge to live with greater mindfulness, a call to notice how the entire universe is present in the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of things. It’s an echo of the mystic William Blake’s desire “to see the world in a grain of sand.” It’s an imitation of St. Therese’s Little Way, making a blessing of the simple gesture of picking up a pin. It’s a reminder of Mary Oliver’s insightful words about “the first, the wildest, and the wisest thing I know, that the soul exists and is built entirely of attentiveness.”
So in noticing and reflecting on the things we drop, I’m reminded of the subtle, rather gradual falling away of relationships that sometimes occurs due to distance, making it difficult to sustain ties. Or the occasional, deliberate choice to drop a person from our list of acquaintances because of their toxic presence, their negativity, their anger. Or the parting from another in the wake of an intense argument or following harsh words uttered in anger. This dropping, as we know, may be temporary or may subtly grow into a state of permanence.
And what of our connection to the Holy One? In my ministry of spiritual direction and retreat work, I often hear persons confide that they feel guilty because they’ve “dropped” God from their lives. Sometimes that sentiment follows the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one, or a desperate plea for a miracle that seems to have gone unheard, or their general sense of the unfairness of their life and their consequent blaming of God. Most often, though, I’ve found that when people talk about dropping God, what they generally mean is that they’ve forgotten or let go of the practices of daily prayer or meditation or that they no longer work at finding a few minutes of stillness each day in which to hear the Holy One speak. For any of us, this can start as an occasional happening and then simply melt into a routine forgetting. Yet we know that every relationship, both with the Holy One and with others, needs to be fed by making time to check in, share what’s unfolding in our lives, and then listen deeply to the other as well as ourselves. And the wonderful reality is that, no matter our lack of engagement, the Holy One never drops us. God is at every moment longing for our return, our desire to repair and restore, no questions asked.
If we believe, with the poet, that our souls are built of attentiveness, may we then deepen our practice of pausing and truly noticing what is right in front of us—in the things we drop, in the things we retrieve, in the things that are beyond our reach, on where we are in the moment and on how the Holy One is present. May we grow in the practice of noticing and paying attention to the Divine at work in our world in our time and place.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Ask for the grace of awareness and openness to the people and events that may drop in and out of your life today.
What might these messengers be calling you to notice?
You might also, as you move through the morning, afternoon, and evening, reflect on anything you may drop in the course of the day. If you’re able, make the simple action of pausing and picking it up a prayer itself.
Thank you for your patience and understanding of my absence from writing for Mining the Now the past few months. I’m continuing my journey towards full healing which is many months in the future, but I hope now to return to a regular schedule of posting blogs. Your prayerful support is welcome and gratefully received now and in the months to come.
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