Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sacred Things

In the New Testament, Jesus tells the story of Mary and Martha, two sisters who loved him. In the story, Jesus has come to visit their household. Martha is busy with making their home comfortable for their guest, while Mary sits at his feet and drinks in his word. When Martha appeals for help from her sister, Jesus chides her gently, saying that Mary has “chosen the better part.” So, to take in the Word is sacred; it should not be relegated to second place. But the work of attending to the needs of others is both necessary and sacred, as well. Both are needed in the world, and in our hearts.

If I speak sharply to my husband, who is kind and worthy, he is genuinely hurt, and a cloud descends upon our household. He will get over it after a while, but how much better it is to be accountable for my error and apologize. He wraps his arms around me, for he is tall generous, and that is a sacred moment.

Many places along the Eagle Creek Trail are holy, but there is one place in particular, about a half mile past High Bridge, where the trail climbs gently along the west side of the creek, and there, across the creek on the east side, the basalt buttresses mount up layer after layer, thrusting into pale sky. It is good to sing a hymn there, in that place of frozen lava flows and great interior distance; it is cathedral, temple, sanctuary.

The work on ants on the forest floor, that is a sacred thing.

As is the slender stem of trillium in spring, rising from the duff to offer three white petals to the world.

A home is a sacred place. Not enough people have them.

A paycheck, honestly earned with diligent work to benefit the lives of others—the waitress who serves and smiles, the grocery clerk with aching back, the receptionist kindly ordering the world within an office, the plumber who helps water go where it should and keeps it from going where it shouldn’t, the teachers and nurses and librarians and doctors and even the lawyers—that paycheck, which represents time spent in doing, may not be exactly sacred, but it is nearly so.

I have read that Native Americans granted holy status to their members who behaved in ways that western culture considers deviant, behaviors associated with mental illness, for example. Twelve years ago, I lived with my daughter through a year of debilitating mental illness. I concur with the Indians; her work that year was awful, but it brought he—and me—closer to God.

A baby falling asleep at my breast is a sacred thing.

Oliver has been one of my students for the past four years; he is a high school senior now. He is autistic, but on the high-functioning end of autistic; he can handle most assignments and most interactions with his peers. During the week I serve him by teaching him about interpreting something we’ve read, or adding more detail to his writing and punctuating it correctly. Oliver is also a member of my ward, or congregation, of the Mormon Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where worthy boys are ordained to the priesthood at age 16. On Sundays Oliver serves me by officiating at the sacrament ordinance. He and another priest tear the bread into little pieces while we sing a hymn, and then he kneels and blesses the torn bread, the little cups of water, with the sacred prayer, the one that heals my weekly hurts and sends me into the new week with greater courage. This is a tender thing, our mutual service, and very sacred.

2 comments:

Holly Mayer said...

thank you for sharing your thoughts

Katie said...

very nice mom. also, i think you meant "her" instead of "he" when you were talking about your daughter. (as if i can look at a piece of writing and not simultaniously edit it after growing up with you as my mother. it is both a curse and a blessing.)