There is a small place, tucked near the Department of Motor Vehicles in Arvada that has become a type of sanctuary for my little family each week. It’s a bakery.
The smell upon opening the door is a mixture of dough and cinnamon and yeast and coffee. The owner always greets us with a smile and keeps an open tab for us while we are there. Off to the side of the main display cases is a little nook with three chairs, perfect for our family of Three Musketeers to while away a Sunday morning, undisturbed from any outside influence.
A special place, once a week. We have invested in this time for a reason. It is good and healthy to come away and take a break. Certain places, actual physical locations, help us with this concept. A church, or a park, or a cozy chair in your home, can all aide in rejuvenation, reflection, and rest.
It is good to stop. To cease from the mindless labors that hurt our health and well-being. To halt from work. To cut out distractions. I’ve written about this in this very blog. (see my Archives, https://wordpress.com/post/coloradowriter84.wordpress.com/562)
But, I wonder, sometimes, if it’s not about the stopping, or about having chunks of endless time, or completely free calendars. Maybe it’s about allowing time in the middle of the chaos and the noise and the plans. We can carve out time for mindfulness during times of movement. We can create spaces for flourishing in our distracted, break-neck speed world.
Ever since the Angel blocked the way back to Eden, we have been searching for the sacred again. At times, I contemplate what it must have been like to have the whole Earth filled with God’s presence. To only experience peace and joy and communion every hour. (Jealous much of Adam and Eve!) True, uninterrupted exposure to holiness permeated the lives of the residents of Eden.
Sometimes, you only appreciate something after it’s gone. Mankind has striven to recreate perfection and beauty and peace on the scale of Eden ever since our banishment. This is why certain spaces, holy sites, hold such value over us. We know we are lost and disconnected. Sacred sites shift us to God in a way that, perhaps, we have trouble doing in our own strength.
What if our experience with the sacred didn’t depend on a physical location?
What if began to experience the whole of life as sacred and precious,
no matter where we were or who we were around?
What if our life was not ordinary, but extraordinary, simply because we get to be here now?
I am reminded of Mary, Jesus’ mother, as I think about the sacred among the ordinary. After she birthed the Messiah, angels and shepherds and wisemen surrounded her. Eight days after his birth, she dedicated her son to God, and two strangers offered her blessings. Then she and her husband up heaved themselves in the middle of the night because an angel informed them that a madman wanted to kill her son.
And all the Scriptures says is this, “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
She didn’t run away from it. She didn’t complain about it. She didn’t even try to understand everything that was happening around her. She simply reflected on it, and created a sacred space inside her heart to house everything God was showing her. No matter where she was, in a barn, in a Temple, or on the back of a donkey, she maintained a reverent awe and wonder.
One of the alternative definitions for “sacred” is “entitled to reverence or respect” and “highly valued or important.” Moments in time, conversations we have, emotions we experience, movements of our body–all work together to align our lives back to the Divine. It doesn’t matter where we are. Or who we are with. Or what is surrounding us.
Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” Isaiah wrote, “In returning and quietness shall be your confidence.” It is so easy to forget that God is present in us. Every second of our life counts.
I am not trying to disregard the pain and suffering in the world. I do not pretend to understand why evil happens, nor am I saying that God is okay with it all. The unspeakable grief and pain that humans inflict upon one another, for no apparent reason, breaks my heart. Whether it is gun violence, extreme poverty, mental health suffering, or grief brought by death, I am not taking lightly the sorrows of the world. Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of his good friend, Lazarus. He cried again over the entire city of Jerusalem.
He knew what it meant to suffer.
What I am saying, is that in the middle of the worst times and the best times, the chance to experience the divine is ours.
When I run through my mind of sacred moments, I think of these….
Going to an Oasis concert with my brother, Michael, both of us half-singing, half-yelling, beers in hand, laughing and crying. Sacred.
My friend Jennifer, grabbing my hand and praying to God for us to find a specific fabric for a dress we were making. Reminding me that God cares about the little things. Sacred.
Spending time with friends in our backyard, with wine in hand, marshmallows roasting over the fire pit, savoring the glow of the backyard lights. Sacred.
Holding my naked, still-bloody baby, 2 seconds after he joined the world. Sacred.
Seeing my dad in the hospital, yet laughing at one of his silly jokes with ER nurses. Sacred.
Listening to my grandma before her surgery to remove her breast cancer tell my grandpa to “eat something”, because she cared more for him than herself. Sacred.
Playing multiple rounds of card games with two old neighbor ladies who cheated and told rousing stories of their youth and vitality and drank multiple cups of strong coffee. Sacred.
Showing up to a friend’s funeral and holding their family tightly during their loss. Sacred.
I’m not taking the bakery trips off our routine. I enjoy the place. I also thrive on worship services, long walks in nature, and quiet mornings with my cup of coffee. But, aside from those specific times, I am practicing a daily awareness of life around me. My heart and mind is open to receive whatever comes my way, whether it is perceived as good or bad. This expansiveness allows for more grace and more love to fill me up. I’m resting in the wonder of “all things are sacred.” (Thank you, A.W. Tozer.)
So, find your spot, find your space, enjoy any of good stuff that is poured out in your direction. Take in the bad, the hard, the ugly, too. Don’t shy away from any of it, brave friends. It’s all a part of this life we are doing together.
We are not alone. You are not alone.
The sacred is here and now.
Savor it like a fat, buttery croissant.
I know I am.