Contemplation has been described to me as a long, loving look at the real. In my spiritual-direction training, I get to do a good bit of this. And, truth be told, it doesn’t always mix well with my sometimes desirable defense mechanism of denial. There are some things to which I’d rather keep my eyes closed. But here we are just the same.
This morning, God’s nudge to me was to notice and name (not deny the existence of) four key areas of my life: needs, weeds, deeds and seeds.
To notice is to observe, to perceive, to pay attention to or become conscious of. To name is simply but profoundly to call it what it is.
Noticing and naming are the epitome of truth telling, the opposite of denial — and something in which I don’t always willingly participate.
Thus God’s invitation, which I recognized as a setup for a long, loving look at the real.
I think most of us tend to deny the existence of things we don’t want to see (hello, global warming), because once we see them, we are somehow responsible for them. Denying the existence of a thing, however, will make no difference to its reality. Closing my eyes to it does not mean it is not there.
To notice and name is to tell the truth — in this case, about my needs, deeds, weeds and seeds. About the very condition of me, the state of my soul. For me to engage with this invitation means I must be ready to agree with God about what is actually there.
Needs: As a good little servant of God, I tend to deny the existence of my needs. Needs? What needs? Me? While focusing on others is a neighborly and biblical thing to do, not noticing or tending to my own needs sets me up for burnout and boundary issues. Not naming them to God or others can lead to resentment. The invitation: Can I name my needs?
Weeds: I imagine the weeds to be those things that take up unnecessary space in, or choke the vitality out of, my life, work or relationships. That prevent their fullness from coming forth. These may be identifiable as attitudes, anxieties and addictions. However, they may also look like a garden of good growing in the wrong place, competing with needed space. The invitation: Can I confess (agree with God about) my weeds?
Deeds: Here is where I pay attention to my words and works throughout the day. Are they aligned with and arising from the center of me, or are they coming from my weedy parts? Are there things for which I make excuses or justifications? The invitation: Can I notice (be conscious of) my deeds?
Seeds: We’ve all been given something to cultivate and care for, to scatter and to sow. These are the seeds. But sometimes I deny their existence. It’s the whole light-under-the-bushel thing. It’s vulnerable to show up and share who I am and what I have to contribute. The invitation: Can I sow my seeds?
Instead of denying them, can we:
Name our needs?
Confess our weeds?
Notice our deeds?
Sow our seeds?
This practice is rearranging my life. How could it not? It’s not all easy to see, but the fruit coming forth is plump and juicy.
Our year is quickly coming to a close. If you make resolutions, why not resolve to notice and name? To pay attention to the life that is yours and the state of your soul?
To do so, you may want to ponder three questions:
What are the needs, weeds, deeds and seeds you are being invited to notice and name?
What are the reasons you choose denial?
What might help you take a long, loving look at what is real?
I’ve heard it said the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. Avoidance of this misery is one thing that has kept me from noticing and naming, leaving me on the surface of my soul, living in ignorant oblivion.
There are many inconvenient truths. To notice and name is to tell the truth anyway, and by telling the truth to be set free.