I think I'm the type of person easily overwhelmed and this week has thrown more than its fair share of obstacles my way. In the last 3 days alone, I have attended the funeral of a friend's 14 year old son, found out about a friend's cancer diagnosis, heard about a family member who lost her job and received word that another friend had emergency surgery. Last night when J got home, we were talking about another sad situation involving a teenager who is wrapped up in a world she's constructed - one that bears little resemblance to reality. We talked for a while and then I said, "I can't talk about this anymore. It's just too much for me right now."
In this midst of all of this, I read yesterday a prayer of Hild of Whitby. This seventh century woman founded a double monastery that was home to both men and women. Can you imagine being a woman of that time and holding that kind of influential position? I mentally shrink from the idea. Yet when I read this prayer in Celtic Daily Prayer, it resonated with me:
Take me often from the tumult of things
into Thy presence.
There show me what I am,
and what Thou hast purposed me to be.
Then hide me from Thy tears.
O King and Saviour,
what is Thy gift to me?
And do I use it to Thy pleasing?
The prayer goes on for several more stanzas, but I think these two questions are enough to ponder for now. What is God's gift to me? Do I use it to his pleasing? I also love the idea of imploring God to remove me from the tumult of thing into his presence. Surely this is the key to not being so overwhelmed.
What does that look like from a practical standpoint? There are still children to be taught, a family to be fed, laundry to be washing and myriad other tasks to be completed. I can't simply check out of my life. This week, I've tried to take care of the essentials and let the other things go. That means the laundry is washed, but the bathroom floors aren't mopped. Math was done today, but not Latin. Dinner tonight will be pasta with bottled sauce, not one from scratch.
Fighting being overwhelmed with the tool of contemplation also means there is a pot filled with orange peels and cinnamon simmering on my stove, filling the house with a fragrant aroma - one that reminds me that even in the midst of so much pain, so much brokenness, there is good in this life. It means leaving my daughters to finish their history while I retreat upstairs to read in Luke. It means turning on Christmas music while I work (even if it is 6 days before Thanksgiving - I know what my soul needs and it needs Christmas music!).
Near the end of Hild's prayer, it says:
May I be equal to Your hope of me.
If I am weak,
I ask that You send only what I can bear.
If I am strong,
may I shrink from no testing
that shall yield increase of strength
or win security for my spirit.
I have been asking God to send me only what I can bear, for I feel weak indeed. I can't fix the things that are broken in the lives of those I love. I can only hope to not be too upset, to not be thrown off the task of loving my family well and seeking the Lord in the midst of it all.