Embracing the Habits
There's a man I know named Don, an attractive, stocky accountant with jet-black hair and a timid smile. Ten years ago when he first arrived at All Saints Church in Pasadena, where I have been the rector for 17 years, he was contentious, skeptical, and tentative. He had been through a long and acrimonious divorce from his first wife, Sara, and he could not shake his feelings of rage and disappointment. Custody arguments kept him away from his firstborn son more than he desired. "I was paralyzed with the fear of the unknown, and I found solace dwelling in the resentment and regret of my former life," Don said.
Eventually, he met another accountant named Angela, whom he adored. Though he was somewhat anxious about remarrying, he loved and trusted Angela and wanted to build a new life with her. They married at All Saints and had a child together, joining Angela's young daughter from a previous marriage. Yet Don still felt lonely and unmoored. Late at night when he couldn't sleep, he lay in bed wondering how everything had gone so wrong. His accounting practice was financially successful, and he had a loving wife and beautiful, healthy children—surely he should be happy. But he was not. Something foundational was not working in his life.
During this time, Don was attending All Saints with Angela each week. In my Sunday sermons, I often talk about the Habits of Love, and I always emphasize the immense, liberating power we feel when we are able to open our hearts and our minds to love.
Don was listening. He heard the call of the Beloved, and he responded.
First, he worked at opening his heart to being more generous, so he could return to feeling a genuine and liberating sense of appreciation. "It takes hard work not to be drawn into what paralyzes us or makes us forget why we should be grateful. It is in gratitude for what we already have that we are reminded that we are beloved," Don said. His life is a busy one (as so many of ours are, too), full of responsibilities and activities, but he found ways to incorporate Stillness into his daily routine. Over time, he made a conscious effort to change the way he managed his relationship with Sara and their son. He tried always to choose love over fear. Instead of only talking about logistics with his ex-wife, he would ask Sara how she was doing—and when she answered, he listened. The anger in his heart began to dissipate. He tried to approach her with an intentional attitude of love.