Anne is a birdwatcher (what English people call a “twitcher”). As a child she began learning to recognize and name the birds she saw—robin, cardinal, blue jay. Now she has a life list and travels to special sites to have a chance to see birds she has never seen before. Being prepared, she says, is the key to birdwatching. But it isn’t the kind of being prepared that one does for some event occurring at a certain place on a certain date. It is a preparation that allows one to receive gifts whenever they show up.
To be prepared to see birds takes having a body of knowledge that develops little by little; the more you know the more you can know. It also takes some aptitudes and attitudes—skill at using binoculars, a framework for interpreting what you have seen, practice, patience, and joy at seeing whatever shows up or even nothing.
I practice a kind of Christian meditation called Centering Prayer, promoted by Contemplative Outreach. It is a method that prepares the pray-er to receive the gift of contemplation if and when it is given. Like those seeds that, once planted in the ground, wait months or even years for the conditions to be right—enough water, nutrients, and the right temperature—for germination, centering prayer involves staying put and waiting.
I believe that the whole of the spiritual life is about being prepared—both actively preparing and passively being formed and readied (and everything in between)—for living and for death. The elements of such being prepared include experiences and a framework or knowledge base for interpreting those experiences; a deep desire for, commitment or dedication to this life and to the One who gives it; and a community with whom to prepare. There are also aptitudes and attitudes that help—practice, ability to listen, trust, and gratitude.
I believe that God’s goodness grants us moments of abundant life, and being prepared enables us to notice them and soak up the joy that might otherwise simply fly by without being seen or appreciated.
For what do you have a deep desire to be prepared? What do you need to do?
In what ways have you been prepared and in what ways are you in the act of being prepared?
Knowing rote prayers of the church can be a way of being prepared. There are multiple ways of praying. Being prepared happens when one prays regularly. Take on a spiritual practice of prayer.
For further reflection:
“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (See Matthew 25: 1-13).
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (See Luke 3: 1-14 and Isaiah 40: 3-5).