Okay, I admit that I am a creature of habit. I am not sure what the ramifications of O.C.D. really are, but if I am anywhere near accurate in my interpretation of the symptoms, I am certainly afflicted with it. As I reported last week, my day begins at roughly 4:30 AM when our boss, Pako the Cat, walks repeatedly across my head, insisting that it is time for his drink of fresh water from our kitchen sink’s filtered faucet. As he laps at the gentle flowing stream, I prepare my breakfast of Quaker Puffed Wheat with skim milk flavored by one packet of Splenda and a side of an orange or a cup of fruit, after which I fetch the Boston Globe and the Cape Cod Times. While eating my 240-calorie breakfast, I scan the papers, examining each section in the same order every day, after which I enter my calories on My Fitness Pal before returning to bed to doze off for an early morning nap. Then, it’s “up and at ‘em” and off to work.
Finished with phase one of my work day by about 1:30 PM (unless I have a lunch date), I return home for a lunch that consists of ham and Laughing Cow low-calorie cream cheese on two slices of whole wheat bread, 1-3/4 ounces of Utz Dark Pretzels and ½ cup of 60-calorie Boston Cream Pie pudding. Total calories: approximately 500. Next in the queue: Nap time! After about a 40-minute snooze, it’s time to work on a sermon or write my blog, followed by 45 minutes of walking, gardening or biking, preparing and cooking dinner, watching CBS News, rushing off to an occasional evening meeting and, at last, settling down for snack time and watching a couple of episodes of “International House Hunters” or “Million Dollar Listing” with my bride. Pako then herds us into bed. I log in my total calories for the day (usually about 2000) and try to read a bit or play a few games of Solitaire on my cell phone, before flipping off the light at about 10 PM for some blessed rest. The next day dawns at 4:30 AM and I do the same old thing all over again.
Of course, given my profession, interruptions of my daily drill are all too frequent. I am used to this, but I am also a skilled master at getting my routine back on track as soon as practically possible. I whine about these interruptions and announce frequently how nice it will be when I can retire and live a “routine-free” life with minimal interruptions, but I will most certainly require extensive and frequent therapy to break out of my insidious patterns. Sam Keene once said that he wasn’t sure what the second half of his life would be like, but that he was certain that it would be “radically discontinuous” from the first half of his life. That may be true for Sam, but how come I have this overwhelming sense that the last third of my life (I am way past the break-even point!) will simply be an adjusted routine with a different combination of interruptions?
Not that all interruptions are bad. Sometimes the disruption of our routine gives the Eternal One an opportunity to invade our space. This certainly happens when the dominoes of our life are falling, when our earthly elevator is descending rapidly to the basement. Nobody likes tragedy. It stinks. My experience, however, is that, when the bottom falls out, it is one of the few times we consider opening our hearts and minds to Divine intervention. When we can’t pull ourselves up out of the mud, as Calvin Seerveld once wrote, it may become the moment when we are willing to “take hold of God and pull.” Perhaps it is an opportunity for us to seek shalom, a peace that can only come from beyond ourselves. Why, however, wait for a negative busting of our routine before we open ourselves to the One who exists for us, in us and around us? We don’t have to.
Last week, I had nearly finished my “routine” for the day. It was about 8 PM and I was driving home from an evening meeting. As I turned into our driveway, I saw something spectacular, miraculous actually, peering through the branches of the pines and oaks that guard our house from public view. It was the rising of a huge, brilliant, harvest moon. My instincts told me to stay on track. My routine was calling me to snacks and an episode of “International House Hunters,” but I, with great determination, rebelled. I did a “U-y” and headed to one of my favorite vantage points on Cape Cod. It is the beautiful, peaceful spot at which the Santuit River widens as it heads toward Nantucket Sound. I parked my car and walked down to the edge of the river, plunked down on the bridge and just watched that harvest moon rise over the still waters of the barely flowing river. I cannot even begin to describe the incredible beauty of it. There are no words. And yet, just when I thought it could not get any more stunning, a flotilla of ducks paddled their way gently by, barely disturbing the serene waters, as if following the trail of moonlight arcing across the bay. It literally took my breath away and put an end to any thought of getting my evening routine back on track. Instead, the words of an ancient songwriter whispered to me: “O Lord, my Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” And then, from somewhere far beyond myself, I felt a Divine nudge, a feeling that transcended my understanding: Shalom. Peace.
John E. Holt, Cotuit, MA.