Consider it a New Year’s hangover. Not from spirits sipped but from deep inhalation of the Spirit, inhaling and exhaling, pushing toward life, love and attention. Consider it a lingering, a longing, a possibility.
The winter season both slows and hastens us. Hurry up and accomplish all that is on your list. Hurry up and identify the singular resolution that will transform your life. Hurry up and claim whatever hours of light you are able. Hurry up and empty out what does not bring you joy.
Slow down and move toward the interior. Slow down and wrap yourself in blankets. Slow down and share stories. Slow down and eat comforting foods. Slow down and savor moments. Slow down and listen to your own soul. Slow down and attend to what is most true.
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other
since loves come from the Holy One.
Everyone who loves comes from the Holy One
and experiences the presence of and connection with the Holy One.”
— 1 John 4:7
Attending to what is most true within our own selves and in others is a great gift to offer, to bear. I fear we have too often set aside the grace of attending to another or, for that matter, attending to our own hearts. Still, we can reclaim the craft.
Think of what it is like when a physician or nurse practitioner truly listens to your health concern, when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have been heard and that together the two of you will work toward health and wholeness.
Consider how it feels when a counselor or clergyperson pulls up a chair alongside you to listen deeply to the joys and pains of your human journey. By listening, the joy grows. By hearing your pain, somehow they mitigate your suffering.
In her 2007 memoir, “Heart in the Right Place,” Carolyn Jourdan wrote:
“I thought about how sometimes the only thing we can do for another person is simply to pay attention to them. Then it occurred to me to me this might even be the BEST thing we could ever do for anybody. Maybe the ability to confer attention on another person was not simply common courtesy but was the fundamental act of humanity.”
I am convinced that part of the incarnational love of being human and loving as the Holy One loves is first by being with one another and second by “hearing” someone else into being. Not neglecting, not ignoring, not listening on the surface. Instead, by attending.
For that matter, it becomes clearer to me that part of incarnational love is not only to listen to one another but also to listen to the earth, the wind, the water, the wood, to the freshwater mussels in the Clinch or North Holston rivers, to the honeybees hungering for purity rather than poison. Incarnational love is seeing not that a rock or a tree are God but, rather, that God is in all of it, expressing love and showing the rest of us how to join in granting attention and love.
As I read one more line of Jourdan’s memoir, I felt a soul-level “Aha!” sort of recognition. “When it came down to it, all we really ever had to give each other was our attention. Wasn’t that what love was? Paying self-less attention?”