Running the Universe

I have an atheist friend who always wants to know what I gave up for Lent. This combination of question and questioner is one of my favorite things in the world.

I don’t enjoy failure, so I don’t choose things like chocolate or sweets. Plus, I don’t really believe in the utility of suffering. Instead I give up an attitude or action.

This year I gave up being worthy, meaning earning God’s love. I think this could translate into non-religious language if you thought about earning being alive. No matter what you do, you can’t make yourself somehow good enough to have deserved coming into being; it’s all gift. I soon realized not being worthy also had to go because it gives me a reason to refuse that gift.

Letting go of worthiness is one step in my ongoing attempt to recognize that perhaps I am not running the universe. It’s risky, though, allowing God to try her hand at this particular task because clearly omniscient and omnipotent have nothing on me.

I confess I haven’t gotten very far. I like being in charge, and it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control if my actions are filling up some imaginary scales that will determine how nice God is to me.

My main practice has been remaining mindful of these few lines in St. Romuald’s Brief Rule for Camaldoli monks, “Remember above all that you are in the presence of God.” The rule goes on to suggest being, “…content with the grace of God,” which takes earning or controlling anything out of the equation. I sometimes translate the first line into, “Remember above all that you are in the presence of infinite love,” which helps me trust God a tiny bit more.

There are two more weeks of Lent, and my odds of achieving enlightenment by Easter are low. I’m not sure I’ve even given up enough control to fill a mustard seed. But occasionally I remember to stop and imagine myself surrounded by God’s presence, and in those moments, the world opens up and out and offers a sense of another way to be.

In case you’ve lost count, God, I think I’m at thirty-seven moments—approximately.

3 thoughts on “Running the Universe

    • Half Jewish, half Catholic. I count myself very fortunate to have grown up in such a beyond ecumenical household. It’s a rare gift for a kid to have a Jewish mother who takes you with her on retreat to a Trappist monastery, where she finds grace and nourishment despite having no interest in Jesus. And to have a Catholic father who could really care less how anyone else feels about Jesus.

  1. Ah, Rachel, you are so beautiful and wise and funny. (I don’t know if God counts that.) : ) I laughed and cried. Thank you.

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