At times like this, when my heart is feeling a bit sad (allow for British understatement) it’s all too easy to keep sliding down, down down down, in the belly of the whale (that’s a saying I’ve adopted from one my most treasured lessons of all time, Jonah). And that’s a tad boring. So when it all looks bleak and lonely, and lost, I intentionally find pleasure and peace in the little things. The precious little things.
I have a friend who, like me, loves coffee, but while I toss a capsule into my humming, snarling, clunking machine and bung some milk into the noisy microwave, he has a proper and altogether calmer way of doing things: he enjoys the gentler, more thoughtful ritual of making his morning coffee properly, grinding the beans, boiling the water, and then, in the peace that ensues when the only sound is the faintest trickle of coffee filtering through the beans, he savours the aroma. And, of course, to continue the theme, he drinks it black, unsweetened, like a proper grown-up, probably gazing out at the sky and the fields, while I add a spoon of sugar and a dollop of cream to mine and slug it down as I gather the dogs and try to remember where my car keys are. Coffee isn’t one of my rituals but there are others….
I bet we all have our little rituals, those special parts of the day when we relax into the moment, appreciating it fully, savouring the simplicity and the familiarity. I think they’re more than moments of peace, they’re moments of prayer, when we can slip sideways into a holy space.
One of my rituals (I don’t have many, too scatter-brained) is the simplest of all; peeling an apple.
It takes me back, every single time I do it, to an understanding of God’s amazing plan of renewal for all living things, to wonderment at the perfection of an apple, to gratitude for lunch (it’s usually lunch) and to a visual sort of ‘ahhhh!’ as I see the peel curling and falling and twisting. Lovely!
And then I get to eat it … and then I eat the peel! So why do I peel it at all? Just for the moment. Just for the tiny tiny pause and the delight of that curling pink peel. Just because. Just as my pal could make coffee more speedily if he chose to, and just as I could choose to bite into the apple whole, these little moments feed our souls, slow us down, opening another tiny chink in our day to remember God.
Another satisfying ritual for me is putting on a new pair of socks. It is! I savour the moment as my friend savours his coffee. Feel that lovely cool cotton… or that cosy wool…. There’s something about new socks, fresh from their packet, that is very very satisfying. And we don’t have to say a formal ‘thanks for this food and drink and these socks’, because the ritual has become our Grace. The ritual places us where we want to be, in a pocket of time and space when we can remember, by God’s grace, that this is a gift from God, that he has given us this moment, whatever it might be for you.
Whether we live in a palace or a tent (or, temporarily, the belly of a whale), these little moments are there for us, they may be in the tearing of bread, in reaching out for the hand of someone we love, in sewing the perfect seam. Our lives are sprinkled and sparkled with these moments, we just need to slow down and savour them, to remember who gives them to us. Then we will find joy.