Thursday, November 7, 2013

Turn the Knob the Other Way in Your Spiritual Life

Over at my creativity blog, I wrote this post about my week's great joy:  discovering hot water in our small cottage behind our small house.  It's a problem we'd been trying to solve for months.

We knew the cottage had hot water at some point, because there's a shower, and who puts in a cold-water only shower? But back in July, the hot water delivery system didn't seem to be functioning.

We've been on the lookout for where a hot water heater might have once been in the cottage, without luck. We tried to figure out the piping. It seemed that hot water had once gone to the cottage from the main house. But the shower had nothing but cold water when my spouse let it run. We asked other neighborhood people about their cottages.

We'd been making plans to get an on-demand hot water system, which was making my heart sink for all sorts of reasons (expense, fear of plumbing repairs, those things).  But on Tuesday, I discovered that the hot water does work in the cottage.

How did I do this?  I turned the knob the other way.  We're so conditioned to turning the knob to the left when we want hot water that we hadn't tried turning it to the right.  I got so stymied and so desperate to solve the riddle that I tried it one more time, turning to the solution that should have been obvious right from the beginning.

That experience has made me think about the larger lessons.  How often do we make our problems bigger by not trying a simple fix?  How do our patterns and habits preclude trying the simple solution?  How do we make our problems harder than they have to be?

I think about this in our spiritual lives.  Maybe we feel awkward when we pray--does it occur to us to use a prayer book with the prayers already written?  Maybe we want to do more volunteer work, but we feel we don't have a chunk of time.  We could volunteer for smaller units of time.

I think this about our churches.  Many of us are doing the obvious things to help with finances:  we look for other groups to use our building, for example.  But many of us could do more.  The example of a community garden is one example.  My church sits across the street from a community college.  We could put in more parking and rent those spaces to the college--or just rent the parking lot as is.  As far as I know, we've never reached out that way.

Turn the knob the other way.  Maybe we'd like to go on a retreat, but we assume we can't afford it.  Many camps have scholarship programs.  Or we could do a solitary retreat at a monastery, which usually will accept what the retreatent can afford as a donation.

Turn the knob the other way.  Maybe our spiritual needs mean we should reach out to different resources.   There's no rule that says we can't have 2 church homes.  Maybe we need to sing with the community chorale in addition to a church choir.  Maybe it's time to learn an instrument.  Maybe it's time to explore a non-musical art form.

Turn the knob the other way:  what could we be doing differently, if we could just get out of the yoke of how we've always done it?

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