The current challenge of the Divine Office is that even though I find myself in the rhythm, carving our 20 minutes four times a day for prayer, my thoughts do not always cooperate. Especially during the work week, yesterday and today for example, as I close my eyes to breath and center, and then go to the book of prayers, my mind wanders to all the other things I 'should' be doing. I find myself watching words go by as my mind is planning the activities to pursue after this brief interlude. Especially when I begin to recite Ps 63 which I am memorizing for Lent, I am bombarded with frustration at the interruptions of the day that have prohibited the work I hoped to get done, and then I begin to recite the list of things undone, the things that are important, but I can't find time to do. Then come regrets at choosing some things over others. I have been studying Paul for a bible study, but perhaps I should have been preparing the Mark study guide for new members and their mentors. Then find frustration slowly becoming anger as I imagine the people who would criticize these decisions and the use of time and it almost becomes unbearable to pray... it is a waste of time.
I came upon this reading by Nouwen that I go back to again and again...
a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life.
I've been reading this during my prayer time. Prayer time is slowly changing, the list of things to-do going away. I find that I enjoy prayer because my day is no longer so much about what I must be doing so as to prove my worth to God or the church or others. My day is about this quiet time in which I am worth something just because I am. I needn't do anything to be loved and cherished by God. As a matter of fact, sometimes the work and the list of things to accomplish, inhibit this relationship... the relationship, even minstry, is more about getting things done than about growing closer to God. What am I teaching folks at church about faith, if I live a life of constant action that really doesn't accomplish the goal of the Christian life, to grow in God's love.
The benefit of this time is that the rest from planning and thinking and doing and acting has allowed me both the time to prioritize my tasks, and to find peace to respond when others might not understand this prioritizing. That is a benefit, but the ultimate gift is simply the quiet time.