I woke up on Sunday, wanting to run to the store so I could make blueberry muffins. We have a full fridge and pantry, and I woke and the first thing I thought was for more. I also noticed, when I remembered, no, you can’t go get that, my spirit felt agitated. Attachment to having what we want, when we want it, revealed itself. “It would be so nice for a Sunday breakfast, they’d all love it, and I’d love to make something special…” my brain started. I could see the muffins, the table, and everyone around it. It would be lovely. I just needed to go to the store.
For many of us, for the next weeks, we’re not supposed to go out except for necessity; not to work, not to the park, not to do the ordinary errands that fill ordinary life. We know it helps curtail the spread of the infection and ease the strain that will be put on our health care system. We also now know, how very distracted and busy we’ve been, and how much we do and do and do, not out of necessity. Unbidden, the words, “You do not need.” floated into my head, stopping my vision of the Sunday brunch.
“You do not need.”
The words echoed St. Teresa of Avila’s “God alone suffices.” (I had to google who the quote came from and thus got the fuller text, which seems perfect for times like these, when there’s so much we don’t know). In the weeks to come, I’ll be discovering, all I’ve formed attachments to, and all I’ve used in life to distract myself. The saint’s words hit home. “Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”
Discovering what is necessary and what isn’t, is the purpose of Lent. We are going out into the desert of our lives and discovering how often we use work and errands and everything, to avoid being present to ourselves and each other and most of all, God. I admit, I wanted to argue in my own head with the reality, “But it would be so nice…” I repeated to myself the words, “You do not need.” and the saint’s helpful counsel, and the irritation lessened.
As I typed away, my husband got up. I told him of my little notice from God. We started on the day. He asked me to pour him a small glass of juice when I went to the kitchen. He normally likes a large sports cup with ice to start the day. “We should ration ourselves.” He said. We’d seen the store shelves. I thought about all the saints who did little things to detach themselves from the world, and how fasting has always been a struggle for me, I love even the idea of being lavish. Choosing a smaller cup felt somehow sad, or would unless I willed otherwise. “You do not need.”
I will be clearing a lot of bramble from my soul this Lent, the same way one clears out a closet. All the excess in my heart, is a theft, both from those who do need, and from God. It will not be easy, and it will again reveal over and over again, why we need Lent, why we need God to reveal to us, the poverty of our spirits and the weakness of our wills. Even the gifts of the Mass are partially being withheld from us, to make us see, how much we use the schedule and work and things and even good practices like exercise or cooking or work to avoid what we do need. The lesson is there in the absence. “Be still, and know I am here.” Jesus is in the boat with us, in the midst of the storm. He is on the cross crying out to us, “I thirst.” And offering to us, His friendship to drink.
Of all else, we know, and now must take into our hearts fully, we do not need. God alone suffices.
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