By Christine Valters Paintner
King Solomon made himself
an enclosed litter of wood from Lebanon.
He made its columns of silver,
its roof of gold,
its seat of purple cloth,
its interior lovingly fitted.
—Song of Songs 3:9-10, New American Bible
Several weeks ago my husband and I were praying lectio divina, using the passage above, and the words “lovingly fitted” shimmered forth for me from the text.
The theme for me this summer, as I have had a sabbatical from teaching, has been sustainability. How do I continue to nourish the work I am doing and flourish in the process? What are the things to say “no” to, so that I might have more space for the fullness of blossoming? What are the essential practices that cultivate joyfulness in this work?
When I read the words “lovingly fitted,” I had to take pause. In the passage it is referring to King Solomon’s litter, which is a kind of seat or throne. But as I prayed with the words and let them stir my imagination, I found myself invited to ponder the ways God wants my life “lovingly fitted” for me. What I think this means, in part, is not living someone else’s life or another person’s expectations of what I think I “should” be doing.
“Lovingly fitted” speaks to me of taking great time and care to craft something that fits a person just so. How might I craft my days with such joy, attentiveness, reverence, and love for my own abundant gifts? What if each day were a throne, a royal seat, a holy tabernacle?
And it is not just me doing the fitting. I do it by listening to the Source of all wisdom within. I listen for the thrumming beat of love and what makes my heart pound more loudly. How do I “lovingly fit” my days? How do I craft my book of days so that generosity can be poured forth? . . .
Hand in hand with these questions, begs the question of all the ways we sabotage our own best efforts, when we take on things to please others, or not disappoint them, or we continue doing what has brought us joy in the past without realizing that things have gently shifted, and our souls are ready and hungry for new nourishment and challenges. . . .
For Hildegard of Bingen, a fundamental principle of discernment was viriditas–or the greening power of God. We are to seek out what most deeply nourishes us in both body and soul. What contributes to our flourishing is holy. What depletes us is not, so we can stop worshipping at the altar of busyness for the sake of appearing important or productive.
We can pause and ask ourselves, what would it mean to live as if my life were “lovingly fitted” for me? To believe that God does not demand us to contort our spirits into other people’s versions of us, but to recognize our life task as living what is uniquely given to us?
May we encounter the greening of our souls in profound new ways, so as to bring that kind of vitality back to the world. May you find an abundance of greening moments revealed each day.
Adapted from the Abbey of the Arts Blog by Christine Valters Paintner. abbeyofthearts.com. Used with permission.
Photo Credit: © Thinkstock/IstockPhoto.
It’s not too late to get a copy of the current issue or to order copies of Alive Now for your church, your small group, or yourself. Call 1.800.972.0433, order online, or download your copy of Alive Now today.