Go out on the porch of your mind. Go on, it’s free. Shut the door on the secretary that yaps at your heels with her ever-present, ever-growing, every-urgent list of to do’s. Lock it if you have to. Now, look for the rocker. It’s over there near the railing. Chilly? Pick up the wooly afghan that hangs over the back of the chair. Too warm? Look, you’ll find a tall, cold drink and a paper fan on the little table at your elbow.
It’s not for nothing that St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended beginning a Scripture meditation with “composition of place.” The imagination is a blessed tool for disengaging from the secretary still rapping on the glass door you’ve closed in her face and for engaging in the unexplored landscape around you. You can create your own circle of comfort from the remnants of scenery stuffed into the ragbag collection of the mind. You can pull out the pieces of unfinished mental knitting you dare not quite admit you enjoy working on: questions like “In that story about Jesus calling the tax collector Levi and sitting down at table with him and his friends, where are the Pharisees and scribes who raise a vociferous objection disguised as a question? They couldn’t be sitting at table. They wouldn’t, their question implies. They’re talking to the disciples whom they accuse of eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus overhears and answers them. So, what is the geography of this scene, and what does it mean, if anything?” Or, “What is the meaning of life?” Or “Where did Robin Hood meet Maid Marian/” These are just bits of my own quirky knitting. You get out your own.
The secretary is frantic now, but you no longer hear her much. You’ve gotten yourself involved in mowing the lawn and planting the rhododendrons in the beds before your inner eye, or hunting out those wretched Pharisees, or turning over what you remember reading about Robin Hood and Maid Marian. You’ve gone out of yourself by going into yourself and out the other side.
Don’t worry too much about imagining God into the scene in order to baptize it into prayer. Who do you think gave you the landscape and the knitting pattern? God is into creating worlds and forming chaos into patterns. The Word is the one who spins, sorts and evaluates many of the words, questions, and answers we find running around the landscapes of the mind. The Word is always willing to sit down on the porch and chat about them – pursuing, completing, rearranging, whatever. The Word is within and beyond us, so just relax and let the Presence emerge as you distance the secretary and relax on the porch. It will. You may not recognize it, though. God doesn’t seem to care much for the boxes in which we work so hard to confine him.
It won’t last forever. Eventually, you’ll have to turn your back on the scenery, stuff the knitting back in the bag, and unlock the door. The outraged secretary will scold and shove piles of papers into your arms. But as you close the porch door behind you and head for your office, you will quite likely find that a smile lingers on your face and memories of landscapes and knitting settle into a comforting background to telephones and computers and papers and more papers. And you’ll know that you can go out there again. The porch is a habit worth cultivating. The porch and the Presence.
Copyright 2012, Abbey of St. Walburga