Saturday Morning 6 a.m.
Lots of people nowadays say they are on a spiritual journey. I am one of those journeyers on a soul-searching quest, seeking something richer and deeper in life - looking to encounter an abiding Holy Presence in my life.
Every morning I meditate. By day, I walk the desert trails. At night I gaze up into the star-studded brilliance of a moonlit sky. These are the times and places I "expect" to enter into that deeper experience. And yes, at these times and in these places, I have often sensed my connection to the universe and felt an abiding power that is bigger than me. The desert is my church.
But something happened yesterday that taught me an important lesson about the spiritual quest. Sometimes you encounter that Holy Presence in places and at times when you least expect it, when you aren't even looking.
Yesterday, I found myself in the local Walmart. My wife convinced me to accompany her to help find a picture frame, so I very unenthusiastically went along. I did not want to be there, and when we entered the store, my lack of enthusiasm grew exponentially. The local Walmart is little more than a big warehouse made of concrete blocks. The harsh fluorescent lights, merchandise scattered on the floor and shelves, lots of noise echoing off the concrete walls, and the endless background "musac" put me in a very cranky state of mind.
We managed to secure the required picture frame and we were waiting in one of the checkout lines. Directly in front of us was a young Latina woman cradling her 3 month old infant. She was feeding the baby a bottle of milk and at the same time juggling to place her purchases on the counter while caring for another child in tow at her side. Her English was limited and our Spanish was even more limited but we did understand when she motioned for us to go ahead of her while she managed all the many tasks she was performing.
I was perfectly happy to pass her by in the line so we could pay for our purchase and get out of that horrible store when my wife went over to her and offered assistance. As my wife was reaching into the mom's shopping cart and placing her items on the counter- some bottles of formula, a few baby toys, diapers- a veil was lifted from my hard heart, and I was suddenly bowled over with a sense of the beauty and tenderness of the moment.
I'm not sure what it was that "got to me." Was it the tender way that young mother held her infant, gently stroking his hair as he drank from the bottle? Was it my wife carefully placing those little baby items on the counter? What I do know is that, all of a sudden, the horrid ugly Walmart store became "holy ground," and I was overwhelmed with a sense of something bigger than me - an abiding power of gentleness, tenderness and compassion.
As I walked to my car, I realized once again that the spiritual journey is not limited by what I do or confined to those special places like the desert trails or moonlit starry nights. Being on a spiritual journey involves one simple guideline: "Be available! Be present to every moment wherever you may be."
In the (Gnostic) Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says:
The Kingdom will not come when you expect it. No one will say, "Look it is here!" or "See, it is over there." Instead the Kingdom of God is spread out over the whole world but people do not see it.
What you are looking for has already come, but you do not recognize it."