The Discipline of Living Sacramentally

Sometime during college I came across Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics –- a neat collection of writings that focus on various spiritual disciplines. It was a welcome change in pace from the Max Lucado and Phillip Yancey books I had devoured during this time as I sought to articulate some kind of theology for myself. The different perspectives and voices were rich, and as “classics” they nourished my soul in their passionate language and timelessness. Afterwards, I picked up his Celebration of Discipline, and it is something that I refer to often especially during seasons of change and transition for the way it grounds me in tangible practices as I make my way through what is unfamiliar.

With the arrival of the twins, who are now almost three months old, and our move to the mid-west where Andy has taken on a new call, and I’ve taken on the strange, new vocation as a stay-at-home mom, I’m in “that” kind of a season now. Except that I can’t find my copy of Foster’s book because most of my books are still in boxes – officeless. As I try – through my scattered mom-mind – to glean the lessons from the many readings in the past what vaguely strikes me is how I sort of passed over the last chapter, which is on celebration…and that this particular discipline is one that I need to continuously cultivate in my life. I started to think about this when something wonderful recently happened in my life and Andy’s first words were “let’s go celebrate,” and my first response was “nah, it’s no big deal.” He continued to insist, and my giving in made me wonder why I had to force myself to let go of that usual resistance to rejoice in something I did or accomplished in the moment.

I’m not sure why I don’t easily celebrate moments in my life. These days I know that I can garner a lot of sympathy from people who understand the sleepless haze of the first few months of the twins’ lives – I mean, I’m in a fog, so it’s difficult to even muster up enough brain cells to feel or remember what it means to be in a party-type mood. But, I’ve always been this way – downplayed momentous milestones like graduations and birthdays, brushed off awards, and ducked behind someone else if I would get some recognition or credit. It’s not modesty, I think, or saintly humility. I think it’s…embarrassment, and a little sprinkling of pride – like I’m somehow above celebrating, and don’t want to lower myself to the human baseness of gushing or being excited about something. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s kind of sad.

As I have time now, between feedings and naps, and frantic cleanings, I’ve discovered in looking back that there then must have been a disconnect between my life and ministry because celebrating is a large and important part of what I believe is the job of a pastor. I see that celebrating was inherent in much of my work: Gatherings with youth on Wednesday nights mostly had a festive tone, like a party, mostly crazy, sometimes subdued, but always happy and joyful. Mission activities that were the most compelling were the ones that had to do with food or meals or children, and again, were more fun than work. Of, course, Sunday mornings in worship overflowed with anticipation and the laughter and noise before the service began indicated that it would be a time not simply for listening and quiet but for happy and much-needed connection, too. And there’s, obviously celebrating the Lord’s Supper. But, all that was easy for me, it made sense…probably because it wasn’t about me per se, although I was usually the facilitator or leader.

Now that I have the kids, and feel the inevitable need to vicariously live through them – in a good way! – I can learn how to celebrate with…and through them. They have already taught me quite a bit so far, as I celebrated their birth, and each subsequent day and week with others, and celebrate their “firsts” (first Easter, first road trip, first discovery of their hands among many things). Still, celebrating is not easy, and it is truly a discipline. Now, I know that this needs a qualifier because life is also full of grief and sorrow, moments that don’t call for celebration, but real and brave celebrationrequires like anything else intention and practice, as well as help and encouragement from others. Maybe ego and embarrassment keeps us from it, or even exhaustion, but its inherently divine roots are planted in each of us, and to deny its life and growth is to deny God’s intentions for us as individuals and in community.

A dear friend of mine shared a quotation on her blog by Shauna Niequist from her book Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life:

Today is your big moment. Moments, really. The life you’ve been waiting for is happening all around you. The scene unfolding right outside your window is worth more than the most beautiful painting, and the crackers and peanut butter that you’re having for lunch on the coffee table are as profound, in their own way, as the Last Supper. This is it. This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events. But pull off the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are.Every life it.

You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.

You are more than dust and bones. You are spirit and power and image of God. And you have been given Today.

All this is to say – it’s something I took for granted or didn’t realize would need to be a part of my development as a pastor – intentionally cultivating the discipline of celebration – to delight in those wonderful moments, and not just during the Lord’s Supper, or at parties and receptions, etc. It’s about living in the here and now, in the moment, in the Today, and savoring it. It’s about giving thanks and blessing it…enjoying all of it, the big and small moments, whether it’s in worship or not, whether it’s at the Table or at a coffee table, whether it’s about others, or about me…and just letting life be fuller and richer because of it all…because that’s God’s glory (yes, I’m plagiarizing the Westminster Catechism). The more I live it in my life, the more it is and will be naturally a part of my ministry, and who I am as a pastor…which I look forward to being in some context in the future again.

Meanwhile, I will keep practicing it…with the twins!

Comments

Thank you for this timely reminder. In the midst of much transition and uncertainty at the moment, my family and I still have much to celebrate. Good luck with the twins.

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