Beginning this week, I’m excited to share a new ongoing blog series called Monday Meditation. These posts will be relatively short (I hope) snippets of inspiration for the week ahead, drawn from what comes up for me in my personal prayer practices.
I remember one birthday of mine, when I was turning about 11 or 12, opening presents with my family. Part of our birthday ritual was hiding presents around the house and playing “hot-and-cold” while the birthday girl (or boy) tried to find them. On this particular birthday, I opened the hall closet door (hot! hot!) to find a large box covered in crumpled wrapping paper reused from last Christmas. Upon opening, I discovered another, slightly smaller wrapped box inside, and then another, and another, and another, until I found myself on the floor in the hallway–surrounded by piles of ripped paper, cardboard boxes, and my family’s smiling faces–holding a small, misshapenly wrapped object in the palm of my hand. I pulled apart the last bit of paper to reveal a small keychain with a silver-backed heart attached. “You put your thumb on the heart, and the color changes to tell you your mood!” my younger brother explained excitedly.
That birthday keychain is long gone now, but so many years later, I still remember the fun and surprise of opening box after box with my family looking on with laughter and anticipation. I realized, looking back now, that the real gift my brother gave me was the experience of spending my birthday with people I loved who loved me, searching for a hidden surprise, and finding it in an unexpected and delightful way that made me feel thought of, cared for, and celebrated–just for having come into existence! That old mood-heart keychain was just a sweet souvenir, a small takeaway that I could hold and use to remember the real gift.
Recently, I was meditating on the gift of God’s presence and found the memory of that long-ago birthday to be a gentle reminder to seek after and savor the experience of being in the presence of God. Out of that time may come a little kernel of wisdom, a realization, an inspiration to do something or change in some way–but those takeaways aren’t really the point. They are nice souvenirs, tangible or intangible reminders of the real gift we receive when we seek God: encountering the Holy in the present moment.
And really, isn’t that what we’re all after, we pilgrims on this journey of ours?