Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Story

By Eric A. Clayton

It’s Saturday morning in the greater Baltimore area. Spring has more or less sprung, though the briskness of late winter air lingers, a guest who has long overstayed any welcome. It’s early — the pancakes are still more of an aspiration than actual food — but I step outside, stand on my porch. I take in that gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun as it struggles to climb just up and over my neighbor’s house.

And then I hear it.

It’s nothing more than white noise at first. I barely register it. The sound drifts casually by, doubles back, looks up my driveway and saunters over as though I’ve invited it for a visit — a guest about as welcome as that stubborn winter air. But it reaches my ears all the same, leans in with a whisper at first but then transitions to a sound with the persistence of a tugboat’s horn.

BuzzzzUMMMMM

“Lawn mowers,” I scowl. “They’re back.”

Well, the noise at least. Presumably, the machines themselves never went any further than my neighbors’ sheds.

But the noise has done its work. My gaze tumbles downward from the morning sun to my own slice of lawn. Green and patchy and long. I sigh, grinding my teeth together. It must be done. I can only hope I’ve remembered to charge the battery.

I turn back into my home, determined to mix up those pancakes, avoid tripping over the cat and, now, begrudgingly mow the lawn.

It’s a simple enough thing: mowing the lawn. But I was struck by the broken silence that had inspired my afternoon chore. Would I have realized my lawn was getting a bit long regardless of noisy neighbors? Of course. And after all, the sound of lawn mowers happily humming in the background is an oft-repeated tune on the soundtrack of spring.

But there’s something to be said about turning our attention to a sound — or any sense, really — and allowing it to affect our action. There’s something worth noting about intentionally noting something that is usual and ordinary, allowing that something to fill up the forefront of our minds and invite next steps.

The ordinary becomes the medium through which we understand and conduct our extraordinary lives.

Engaging our senses allow us to ground ourselves in God’s creation. What do we see, hear, taste, smell, touch? Now, what else?

Because God’s creation is still unfolding. As we turn again and again to meet God in the present moment of creation, we experience again and again God’s tug upon our very selves: an invitation to deeper intimacy, a deeper sense of self within the cosmic community of all things.

How often does God’s gentle whisper get stuck in the white noise of our own lives? What does it take to tune in more intentionally? And when we do, what next steps then come into clarity?

I don’t think God has a particularly strong opinion on whether my lawn is long or short. But I do think that God’s Spirit is engaging us in every moment in simple and ordinary ways. And through that Spirit, God weaves together our vocation, our unique and essential path through life.

Today, take a moment and step outside. Listen. Listen some more. And then allow the Spirit to break that would-be silence with the ordinary, humdrum sounds of your utterly sacred life.

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars, an exploration of Star Wars through the lens of Ignatian spirituality (Loyola Press). He is the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, Small Wonders Magazine, Air and Nothingness Press and more.  Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat.