My morning prayer practice includes an email from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, NJ, with daily readings and reflections during Advent. One this week read:
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24: 42-44
What strikes me is the juxtaposition of awake-ness and what we, today, might call a Home Invasion. That expression has often been used in news reports to describe a break-in, especially in the better, leafier suburbs.
On a literal level, I understand the prudence of conscious guardian-ship to protect and defend one’s home – including one’s family, especially the elderly and the young, as well as one’s possessions. If thievery is most successful when unsuspected, then constant vigilance is paramount. ADT and gated communities profit in response to those fears. But if our spiritual goal is to be Awake, what invasion are we guarding against?
I have quite a history of reluctance, and possibly fear, about a different kind of in-breaking – that of Truth and Wisdom – which challenged cherished assumptions, ways of being, or harmful habits that I had jealously nurtured. An in-breaking was most needed, yet most resisted or undervalued, especially when I firmly believed that my best thinking (!) had gotten me so very far. But the cost of that journey, its treacherous twists and turns, and its unsavory road-side attractions were not fully obvious to me then.
I look back and see that the road is littered with what I had finally jettisoned, but had guarded closely, sometimes long past the “use by” date. In those days, I was known for my tenacious grip. And, what I was holding was more costly than the letting go. But the devil I knew seemed safer than the true Freedom I had not yet tasted.
When I began to really feel my misery, to wonder about another way to live, and to recognize my inability to get there on my own, I saw the window bars as obstacles to my own escape. I recognized that my gated community was small, too small; it shut out so many possibilities.
Buddha was asked, “What are you?” He simply replied: “I am awake.” Buddha means “the awakened one.” How to awaken is what he taught. From my experience, wakefulness is the beginning as well as the path. It is the state for which I strive, though I often fall short.
My grip has softened, but is still quite operable. On my better days, I can feel the muscles begin to clench, can assess the cost a bit sooner, and do damage control with myself (before, I hope, it affects others). I can choose to be Awake and watch new paths unfold.
“If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
From “The Place I Want To Get Back To” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst. © Beacon Press, 2006.
I offer that quote, above, as an invitation. A dear friend has suggested that more details would be useful to some of you. If you wish to know more of my story, and want to share yours in complete confidentiality, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org