A very imperfect fiat
Yesterday I found myself in the middle of a magical moment: My husband had arranged for me to have the afternoon “off” to get out of the house alone and recharge my batteries, and after swinging by the Adoration chapel for a spiritual fill-up I went down to the local book store to do a little work on my book.
It was hard to find a place to sit because most of the book store’s cafe had been cleared out to make room for rows of metal folding chairs, presumably for some event they had earlier, but I managed to find a seat at the last available table. Whoo-hoo! I spread out my printed notes and began doing some hard thinking about a particularly tricky section of the book. Things suddenly started come together as if some sort of creativity faucet had been turned on full blast in my brain. I started writing wildly, my hand barely able to keep up with my mind. After weeks of frustration from being stuck on a part that seemed boring and overcomplicated yet crucial to the storyline, the answers finally began flowing. “Thank you, Holy Spirit!” I thought, wishing I could have Adoration/writing sessions like this more often.
My thoughts were briefly interrupted by the announcement that an author would be giving a talk in the cafe. I looked up at the folding chairs in front of me and realized that that must be why they were there. I gathered my notes to get up and move to an outside table but didn’t want to leave just yet because great ideas were flowing a mile a minute.
Then came another announcement emphasizing that the author’s talk was starting right now. As I started clearing off my table, hurriedly slipping my folded notes into my purse, something caught my eye: The seats were empty. Not a single person sat in the rows of about 20 chairs. I was suddenly aware that people at three other tables around me were packing up and leaving as well, perhaps fleeing the awkward moment that was about to ensue.
I looked over at the lady whom I figured to be the author, who was chatting with a book store employee next to the podium. “Lord, please, please send someone to listen to her talk!” I prayed.
I grabbed my pen and a crumpled up piece of paper from the table and was just about to head out when I felt something tugging within me. I was pretty sure I knew what it was. I turned to the Lord in prayer, saying something along the lines of: “Ooooooooooh, no! No no no no no no no! You’re going to try to tell me that I am the person sent to listen to her talk. No. I am the person who never, ever gets a completely free moment to write, especially not when I’m actually having a moment of inspiration. To simultaneously have this free time and good ideas is like running into Bigfoot riding a unicorn — it is a rare, precious moment that will likely never, ever, EVER happen again in my whole entire life!”
I looked over and saw the author gathering her notes, and thought that I might have noticed her hands shaking a little. Another person got up and left the cafe. I glanced at an empty table sitting outside in the fresh Fall air, just begging me to sit at it and write stuff. I looked at the time on my cell phone. Depending on how long the talk was, that would probably be it for my free time that day. Yet I continued to feel the Holy Spirit working within me to try to tell me to take a seat in one of those chairs (and for once I was 100% certain that this was the Holy Spirit and not my own subconscious, because my mind was all about LETTING SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT HAVE FOUR KIDS UNDER SIX listen to the talk).
So I sat. I set all my notes aside, turned my cell phone off, and gave the author my full attention. I even made sure to smile and nod to make sure she knew that I was listening and enjoying it.
Before I get some kind of muscle strain from working too hard to pat myself on the back, I should break in here to note that I’m only writing about this because it’s remarkable; normally when my writing time is imperiled by the threat of actual contact with fellow human beings I slither back into my darkened office while hissing, “My preciousssss!” Though I do always want to please God, all too often my attachments to activities that could be broadly defined as “doing fun stuff that I like” win out. In this case it was likely that a big contributing factor to me doing the right thing and following the Holy Spirit’s promptings was that even I am not clueless enough to be unaware of the irony of skipping out on an opportunity to show someone love so that you can go write about how encountering the love of God transformed your life. And I wouldn’t be giving you the full story if I didn’t divulge that the thought did pop into mind, “Lord, I want you to remember this VERY VIVIDLY if I ever have my own book reading! I know we don’t believe in karma per se, but surely I am scoring SOME kind of points here!” (It is admissions like this that make me wish this blog was still anonymous.)
Anyway, nevertheless, I did make the sacrifice and sit down. And it turned out to be a lovely talk — I’m sure that the only reason for the sparse attendance was because of some sort of problem getting the word out. The author was a great speaker, and an employee and another lady eventually sat down as well.
It would make the story more interesting if the Lord showed me the beauty of following his will by giving me some amazing insight for my own book while listening to the talk, sort of like giving candy to a whiny child who reluctantly follows his parents’ instructions. But nothing like that happened. It was a nice talk, I think it made a difference to the author that I was there, and, sure enough, I had to rush home and jump back into the fray as soon as it was over. I never did recapture those great thoughts I had flowing earlier. But that’s OK. I got something better than good content for my book:
First of all, I got a reminder of a lesson so obvious that you’d have to be a spiritual vegetable to need, but that I needed nonetheless: That writing about the love of God should always, always take a back seat to opportunities to actually show real human beings in front of you the love of God.
Mostly, though, I got an insight into the value of the imperfect fiat. Sometimes I feel discouraged that I’m so far away from imitating Mary, who simply said “Let it be done” (in Latin, “Fiat”) when she heard the tremendous news that she would be the mother of God incarnate. I don’t know if there’s one Latin word for “What?! You’ve got to be kidding me. No. I can’t. Forget it. I’m too busy. What? You’re still on me about this? OK FINE!”, but that would be the word for me.
Even in my infinitely smaller situation there in the book store cafe, I couldn’t just say yes to God. I had to drag my feet, whine, bargain, pretend like I didn’t hear a couple times, and then spend some solid time fantasizing about just how very wonderful it would be do what I wanted to do instead. But, it occurred to me as I thought over the situation, I did eventually do it. It’s certainly an area in which I need a lot of work, but at least sometimes, even if only on small matters, I do say yes — eventually. As picked up my purse to hurry back home after the talk, glancing again at that outside table I never did get a chance to sit at, I thought of a look that flashed across the author’s face when I first sat down. Ever so briefly, our eyes met and she looked at me with a mix of happiness, gratitude and great relief. And as I walked out the door, I felt very happy with my imperfect fiat.