A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?”
“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”
Source: Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude
(Ave Maria Press, 1974, 2004), pages 26-27
The world says, “If you are not making good use of your time, you are useless.” Jesus says: “Come spend some useless time with me.” If we think about prayer in terms of its usefulness to us—what prayer will do for us, what spiritual benefits we will gain, what insights we will gain, what divine presence we may feel—God cannot easily speak to us. But if we can detach ourselves from the idea of the usefulness of prayer and the results of prayer, we become free to “waste” a precious hour with God in prayer. Gradually, we may find, our “useless” time will transform us, and everything around us will be different.
Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God.
From Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit (pages 17, 18).
There was a boy who knew how to make others relax by his friendly talk, and once they relaxed, he’d ask his many questions. But he always went home alone. The next day he’d talk some more, and sooner or later, he would always get to questions of love, colorful questions that would stretch and spread and fall, just like leaves.
He lived this way for many years and the deep asking opened his heart. The space of his heart grew very wide and people would come and go like birds in the orchard of questions that was his heart. But once everyone left, he was alone with all he knew.
One day there was a vibrant being who would not enter the orchard of his questions. No matter how friendly he was, she wouldn’t answer him. She simply fluttered close and held him, then waited in the world. It took the boy a long time, for he was now covered with the bark of a man, but he wanted to be held, and so, uprooting himself, he left the shade of his own heart and began to live.
Source | Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening, pages 308-309
PONDER AND CONSIDER
If you try to understand love before being held, you will never feel compassion.
- While breathing deeply, consider the ways you prepare yourself to be loved.
- With each inbreath, lift up your prerequisites to being held.
- With each outbreath, let go of all that is unnecessary.
- Breathe slowly, and begin by allowing yourself to be held by the very air.