Early yesterday morning, as I sipped my coffee laced with milk and watched the dawn creep across the Rockfish Valley, I received a birthday present from Richard Rohr.
“When you sit quietly and for extended times in nature, you see that everything changes,” he wrote in his reflection. “If you stay longer, you see that everything dies or erodes. Nothing stays in the same shape or form for long. Plants and animals seem to accept this dying. All of the natural world seems to accept the change of seasons. Nature fights for life but does not resist dying. It learns gravity’s fall, as it were. Only one species resists this natural movement: humans—you and me.”
Yesterday I turned sixty-five, rather an amazing event from the perspective of forty years ago. Back then I was newly married to my first husband, living in Texas, and going to graduate school. I looked forward to resuming my teaching career, buying a house, and raising children.
I looked forward.
What kinds of gifts did I want for my twenty-fifth birthday? New clothes, books, maybe a record album or cooking utensils—things geared toward structuring a successful life, or at least looking that way.
Rohr continued, “In our consumer culture, religion and spirituality have very often become a matter of addition: earning points with God, attaining enlightenment, producing moral behavior. Yet authentic spirituality is not about getting, attaining, achieving, performing, or succeeding—all of which tend to pander to the ego. It is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need…”
What kinds of gifts did I want for my sixty-fifth birthday? Time with family and friends, help with a chore, my father’s Bible rebound. Oh, and a Stihl FS 90 trimmer. Then I can mow the meadow after the first killing frost so the plants and grasses will grow anew in the spring.
By cutting down old growth in myself, I can move beyond and grow more freely, with God as my reference point instead of my over-arching ego.
I don’t plan to jump into the compost pile any time soon—I think God has more for me to do. But as I watch the leaves on the dogwood tree change from green to pink, I know what’s coming. So I’m trying to let go of what I don’t need and be grateful for what I have.
And look forward.