Zachary and I returned to Virginia late last night (both of us already missing the sand and waves of the Outer Banks and not quite ready to return to "normal life"). One reason I enjoy vacation time is because it gives me a chance to escape from the pressures and stress of daily living in the world. For a few days, all of the worries of my life can be boxed away, and I can rest and dwell in peace. At least that is what I did last week. Zachary and I spent a week doing nothing really, but playing together, lying on the sand and napping in the sun, being soothed to tranquility by the crashing waves, being elated by the simplicity of a dolphins swimming by or a sunset over the dunes. But as soon as we crossed the border into Virginia, all of the worries of "real life" began to creep out of their hiding places and invade my thoughts once more. In fact, I began to dread more and more the end of my time away.
Today is the last day of this week's vacation, so I decided to take things easy and slowly return to post-vacation life. After cooking lunch, I decided to untangle several chains of crosses and saints' medals that had become annoyingly intertwined. As I sat untying the knots, I thought about one of my favorite titles of the Mother of God- Our Lady of Knots, or Our Lady Who unties the knots. I began to think about how these knotted chains were a metaphor of my life and the fears that keep me from dwelling in God's peace. How easy it is for the things of this world to tie my heart into knots, and derail my journey towards union with God! I continued untying the knots, naming each with a fear and worry in my life, and asking Blessed Mary to untie the knots and intercede for me. I know, of course, that these problems will not simply vanish- and neither will any of yours. But, for a moment I was able to live in the awareness of God's love and the peace that God offers in the midst of the storms that rage in our lives- for a moment, I heard Jesus saying to the fears in my heart, "Peace! Be still!"
I've been re-reading a short book by Henri Nowen, The Way of the Heart, as part of required study for my postulancy to the Order of St. Anthony. Nouwen suggests that the experience of my vacation- solitude, peace, union with God, can be known in everyday life. We do not have to flee our lives and go to the desert. We can create the desert in our daily life, in which we are present with God in silence and contemplation. Sometimes, like the knotted chains, the desert is given to us a gift from God. Other times, we have to create space and time to withdraw and be still, much like Jesus did throughout his ministry. We withdraw, not to escape the world, but so that by being in God's presence, we can be transformed to return to the world and work for its transformation.