Some of my first language and conversation about discovering an inner landscape of prayer came through the poems in my high school Norton Anthology; yes, the one that was thick as the fabled Sears Catalogue of yesteryear. One voice caught me from the start – William Butler Yeats, a sort of Irish, Revolutionary, New-Age mystic from the 19th Century. In his poem, The Choice, Yeats rehearses the age-old tension between choosing to give our lives to some all-consuming project, i.e: career, social endeavor, accomplishment, “work,” beneath which all other considerations must be sacrificed; or giving our lives in a more expansive and generative sense to simply and gracefully living day to day, and seeking a perfection that lay in the moment at hand. The Choice often arises when I am faced with a question of where to spend my best energy, and I find myself choosing between prayer and a project; between real rest and the fatigue of a prolonged ambition, between listening to God and listening to the everlasting voices on my favorite podcasts. Perhaps you are like me, finding yourself poised between living life as the project you have chosen, or living life as God is actually giving it to you.
The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.
Easter is our annual celebration that Jesus has overcome the dualities that shape mortal life. The Resurrection, the fact that God is known and felt in our daily lives, is an invitation to meet this choice from a new trajectory. I tend to agree with the old monk in the cartoon, a daily life more deeply steeped in practicing the presence of God will give us a window through which to see that we have already “conquered” the world; that our “choice” may find its resolution in the choice that Jesus has made for us.
Because Jesus overcomes the innate tensions of mortality in His resurrection, because He has risen from, and through, the very dualities that we encounter every day, I believe that deep and prayerful moments with Him can help us find balance where before we have only been riding a see-saw. The choice to be with him more regularly, more deeply, more authentically, is a path from which to truly find a perfection of the life.
My friendly admonition is simply to let Easter interrupt whatever ride you find yourself taking in life at this moment. Latch onto the coattails of a friend and savior who loves you, and find His way of overcoming the world. Keep a prayer book on the desk at work, and in the car, as a sign that this is ground where God is traveling. Light a candle in the kitchen while cooking or cleaning up as a small, wordless, prayer that you are offering that time to be at peace and with God. Give away small amounts of money to those in need, especially those who cannot repay, and say the briefest thank you, “Lord, thank you for letting me be your hands and feet on this day.” Say “thank you” to people who have opened even the tiniest window to heaven for you. Become the person of prayer that you know you have been created to be in this life.
Let Easter interrupt your daily life; it has already interrupted the world. When Easter interrupts our daily lives, when we become those persons of prayer and conversation with God, a curious new balance between life and work may begin to grow. It is a third doorway between what may now seem only a paralyzing choice between work and life. Remember, Jesus has already conquered all those things that we are seeking so desperately to make our own. The more time we spend with Him, perhaps we will find that we need those things the least.
Blessings and Godspeed,