Some periods of my living seem quite straightforward and almost orderly, one thing after another in sequence. Then there are the other times in which I am listening to a myriad of melodies, never quiet sure where the downbeat and back beat should be. I begin a day quite sure that I know what its schedules is, and then in an instant, the phone rings or the doorbell chimes or a text message appears, and everything is suddenly rearranged. There also is the matter of density–some periods are blissfully leisurely, some others packed to rafters with deadlines piled atop one another, everything due within the same week. How did that happen? And how does the Holy One appear to me in such changing tempos?
Something in this picture I took of the concert arena at Disney Hall, awaiting the performance of Tan Dunn’s “Water Passion,” gives me some clues. All the necessary elements are ready: instruments, chairs, lights and what appears to be the infrastructure for the performance. They are diverse. Some do not seem to fit the usual categories of musical offerings. Some are part of the visual architecture of the hall itself. But at the right time the music begins at the direction of the conductor. The musicians–singers, players, and movers–all follow the lead of the one who is interpreting the work of the composer, in his rhythm, at his speed, on his cue. Measure after measure unfolds, and it becomes the musical offering it was meant to be.
I do not believe in a puppeteer God, who is managing the strings of my life from far above in the sky. I do believe in a Holy One who knows the set-up of my life–body, psyche, intentions, resources and limitations, the things that I keep in place continually through spiritual practice alone and with the community. I also believe that as Jeremiah the prophet says the plans that the Holy One has are for good–mine and the world around me. So my question must turn from “how did this happen?” to “how is God here?” and “what is the invitation to me when my careful Plan A unravels into Plans B, C and D?” How do I hear the downbeat for the beginning of this magnum opus of a moment?
In the days I have been musing on this, I come back again and again to the way I start each day, or phase, or month, or year, or decade, when I pause to look at what is before me–the instruments, the risers, the percussion instruments, the water, the lights– to see if I have supplied them, made them ready. Then it is time to listen; I offer the prayer, “Loving God, here I am.” And I wait. Until I sense that the Conductor is starting the downbeat. Now it is time for moving in these 10 minutes, in this hour, in this day, in this time of my life. Each day has its own rhythm, and each day has its own interruptions. I am comforted by Rumi who enjoins me to welcome the uninvited visitor, even if my “plans” are thrown off.
And what about those spaces where there is suddenly nothing scheduled? nothing happening? I have found that these are gifts as well–they are spaces for noticing what is around me–what is blooming, what is growing, what is shining, what is singing. They are opportunities for imagining and dreaming of what might be and where my heart longs to soar. They are fallow times when I take in the beauty, the goodness, the richness of the Word–written or sketched or embodied–all nourishing the resources of my body and soul in preparation for the next downbeat of the Conductor.
This week we enter into Lent, and I will be attending to an external prompt for the rhythm of my life. Yet within each day and its infinite variety, I will still be listening each morning for today’s downbeat and tempo, trying to be a faithful dancer on the journey of following the Holy.