I just read something in Spiritual Directors International’s journal about ‘primal spirituality.’ Not the spirituality of ancient humans, but the first spirituality: that way of approaching life that sets us off on a path of growth and contemplation.
When I look at my own life and think about where it all started, several memories and experiences come to mind:
- As a teenager, visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and becoming committed to nonviolence.
- As a college student, coming to terms with the suffering of my 3 year old cousin with brain cancer and the terrible lie that says people get what they deserve.
- In young adulthood, considering the death of my grandparents and realizing that being healed is different from being cured.
- During my 30s, realizing that the way I prayed had changed to reflect a different kind of vision for God.
These and many others were formative experiences, along with the slow growth pattern of living in the community of marriage and parenthood. But there’s a particular experience that is on my mind today, which was the primal experience for growing the spirituality of my life now.
I had a miscarriage after my second child. As these events go, it was early, uncomplicated, and ordinary. I healed quickly and moved on.
About 10 months later, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test again. I was understandably more reticent about sharing my news, a bit more circumspect about making plans and assumptions about the outcome. At around the 5 week mark, I began experiencing signs of miscarriage again. My doctor’s advice was just to wait it out until an ultrasound at 8 weeks could tell us more.
And that three weeks was simultaneously incredibly difficult and unexpectedly rewarding. Rather than assume the best or the worst, I took an in-the-moment approach to the waiting. This was my mantra during those days:
- I am pregnant today and I am grateful.
- No matter what happens tomorrow or the next day, week, or month, I am pregnant today and I am glad for that.
- No outcome will change the gratitude I feel today.
My joy at the birth of my daughter later that year was all the much greater because of my gratitude practice.
Today, about 11 years later, I have more sophisticated words for this kind of approach to life. I might tell you about my spiritual life… how it’s important to me to live my life as if it were as a gift. I might explain that I have a comprehensive view about life, how good things and bad things happen but life itself is capital G “Good”. I can talk with you about process theology and religious maturity all day long. Yet is comes down to a primal spirituality:
- I am alive today and I am grateful.
- Someday my experience on the earth will end and there’s no way to know what happens next, but today I am alive and thankful.
The days of a human life are like grass: they bloom like a wildflower; but when the wind blows through it, it’s gone; even the ground where it stood doesn’t remember it.* Yes, we are just as fleeting as a flowering weed but we bloom beautifully in our time. Amen.