This post is part of a symposium between the Catholic, Evangelical, and Faith and Work Channels on spiritual disciplines for work.
It started over 20 years ago, the weekly walk to the front of the room. I was a lonely, somewhat puzzled seminary student, seeking something sustaining. Worship, certainly. I had worshiped my whole life. Growing up Methodist meant a lot of that worship was singing, “lustily and with good courage.” Prayer, certainly. I had prayed my whole life. Growing up the child of my particular mother meant a lot of that prayer was meditation, growing as quiet as possible, imaging yourself alone on a seashore, or the ones you loved most surrounded by healing white light. But I was in the place of the abyss where I could neither sing nor pray. I needed to receive.
The story of how I had learned that early Methodists placed a lot more value on the Lord’s Supper than those I was currently surrounded with is too long to bore you with, but I had. I don’t remember who said what to me or where or exactly when they said it. I only know that out of the mix of note-scribbling class lectures and late-night heartfelt conversations and cheerful sermons and covering 3/4 of my textbook pages with colored highlighter, I became aware that there were Christians before me who had received the Eucharist once a week at least. On Sunday, January 1st, 1995 (I’m not making this up; it really was New Year’s Day) I began. Approximately 1040 Eucharists later, I’m still going. It hasn’t gotten old yet.
Now, this is the point at which I hear you interrupting and saying “But this is a symposium about spiritual disciplines for work, not spiritual disciplines for church. You can’t take the Lord’s Supper at work unless you work in a eucharistic wafer factory on the assembly line next to a priest.”
True. But those thousand Eucharists, while they have been a spiritual discipline for many things (including love, marriage, and motherhood), have been perhaps above all a spiritual discipline for work. Because every week I have confessed my failures, shortcomings, and sins. Every week I have been absolved. Every week I have approached the table and taken the one thing in all the world I cannot make or alter or thwart or hurt or destroy: the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. Every week I receive Christ in me. After a while it changes you.
No, every week has not been a powerful emotional experience. (I’m sort of a spiritual Emily Dickinson. I don’t do public powerful emotional experiences.) And no, my thousand Eucharists have not made me perfect, though as a good Wesleyan-Arminian type I believe that I am on the road to perfection through painful transformation. But over the past twenty years they have been prying me open, little by little, making a space where a posture of trust can replace a posture of fear. And I do know the kind of person I would have been without them. I might be doing the same work (though I actually doubt it.) But I would not be doing it in the same way. I would not be doing it as the same person. I might not be here to do it at all.
And so, I walk, each week, down to the front of the sanctuary. I hear, each week, the same words: given, broken, bread of heaven, cup of salvation. I rise, each week, and go out. And for one more week, I have strength to go on.
Sometimes it seems as though the waters part
and for a space I see the other shore,
am free of struggling in the undertow
and breathe the cool clear air above once more.
Sometimes it seems as though the night is long
and summer hot and silent and alone;
Sometimes I have an unfamiliar name,
a new strange name that is not yet my own.
Sometimes it seems as though this heart of stone
is taking its sweet time becoming flesh;
I have spent long dim moments drinking deep,
I have spent long years dying in this death.
But could I trade for unexamined peace
with all that life has ravaged in my heart
I would not, though all hope and fear are gone–
Sometimes I sing; sometimes the waters part.