Every Minute in Delight
Every moment of the day, God sows his seeds of grace and spiritual vitality. Just as the winds carry hundreds of seeds throughout the day, so heaven showers its gifts to every soul that is open and attentive. Folk singer, Joni Mitchell sang the lyrics:
If you can fill the journey of a minute
With sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight
Then the earth is yours and everything that's in it
And what is more I know that you will be alright
These words have profound wisdom. In fact, they say so well what Christ teaches today in His parable. God sows his good seeds from dawn to dusk. He offers unceasing graces. Yet, on what soil will they fall? How will our hearts be attuned at each minute in every day?
‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ (Luke 8:4-15).
There are no ordinary moments. Every moment is charged and critical. This is where we encounter God. His gifts take place in the now. All of salvation works itself out exactly where you are at this instant. This is why spirituality in every faith focuses on breath: because breathing pulls us back to the minute at hand, the opportunity for resting in God’s presence. So when does God sow his seeds? Today. Now.
Moreover, the seed is beautiful. We spend all our energy looking for cheap toys. We chase distractions. We turn up the radio, speed faster on the highway, and surf through the meaningless labyrinth of Facebook. The world can be so dazzling, but in the end, it fills the soul about as much as cotton candy fills the stomach. Yet, the seeds that Jesus Christ offers us, now, through each moment, are far more beautiful and profound than anything we can fathom.
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
“Delight yourself” in Hebrew is: ve·hit·'an·nag. The root, ‘anag’ was used to describe a delicate and luxurious pleasure. Here it means to feel great favor toward something. In Sweden, they have a philosophy called “hygge.” It means seeking out those parts of life that genuinely comfort the heart. God is our true comfort, our luxury, in the most profound manner. The seeds he sows through the day’s moments, are the seeds that make us truly human. So we must open our souls to Him.
Here’s the catch. At each moment of the day, there are also all kinds of barriers barring us from God. “Some fell on the path and was trampled on…Some fell on the rock [and] withered…Some fell among thorns” (v. 4-15). Christ explains each of these, beginning with the seed trampled on and eaten by birds.
“The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (v. 12).
What is the devil’s greatest weapon? The comics depict him like a ferocious monster or a daring villain clad in red. In reality, he is far more subtle than that, much more like a snake quietly sneaking through the backyard. The devil attacks by thoughts: ‘logismoi’ in Greek. The logismoi are all those silver-tongued thoughts that we hear in our heads. In the book, Mountain of Silence, the holy elder states:
"When negative logismoi manage to enter your spiritual bloodstream they can affect you in the same way that a needle, full of poison, penetrates you and spreads the deadly substance throughout your body. Your spiritual world becomes contaminated and you are affected on a very deep, fundamental level" (Elder Maximus).
Thoughts are so subtle that most of the time we never even notice them. Yet they are poison, aren’t they? You come to church, something happens that distracted you, you get irritated, you start nursing your irritation, you go home and are still irritated, and before you know it, that first thought of irritation soaks into your bones and you never want to go back to church again. Or else, you start your day off with a lovely breakfast and steamy coffee, you step outdoors, wave at your neighbor, but your neighbor instead ignores you. The thoughts pour in. You begin imagining the worse. The whole day seems to go badly, and at night you are irritated with everything. Gradually, over the years, we become so accustomed to nursing those irritating thoughts, that they become like old friends. God’s grace no longer finds good soil to land on. It all starts with one little thought. We have to guard ourselves.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8).
Some seed fell on the rocks. “The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away” (v. 13). Most of the time, the only thing you need to do is persevere. Every time something goes sour, we want to run away or sweep it under the carpet. At church, in marriage, at work – problems come up all the time and we’re tempted to toss the rag.
“During periods of these temptations,” St. Isaac the Syrian teachings, “when someone is darkened, he ought to fall on his face in prayer, and not rise up until power come to him from heaven and a light which will support his heart in a faith that has no doubts.”
The scriptures say the same thing: "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life" (James 1:12). If we want God’s graces, in every instance, we need to learn to persevere.
Some seed fell among thorns. “As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (v. 14). This is where we are especially challenged today in the 21st century. To live in America is to be rich. An American who makes a salary deemed below the poverty line may still be among the top 1% of the wealthy in the world. So, in all fairness, the lower class, middle class, and upper class, in America is pretty much in the same situation. We are surrounded by luxuries. Yet, what is it about wealth that threatens to choke our lives? The distractions.
The Church Fathers sum up all spirituality by being able to be still in the presence of God. St. Symeon the New Theologian explains:
“To the extent that our inner life is in a state of discord and dispersed [distracted] among many contrary things, we are unable to participate in the life of God. We desire opposing and contrary things, and we are torn apart by the relentless warfare between them, and this is called the ‘discord’ of the mind, a condition that divides and destroys the soul.”
Today, we live in an era of organized distractions. Everything is buzzing. Everything is flashing. Everything pulls our attention in a hundred directions. This is how the seeds of God get choked.
Finally, some seeds fell on good soil. “But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance” (v. 15). How can our hearts be fertile for the Holy Spirit? How can we, “fill the journey of a minute with sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight”?
“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:20-22).
We can strive to meditate day and night on God’s words. We have to train our hearts, through exercise and habits, to fix on Christ. Then we will discover each and every passing moment to be pregnant with God’s transforming Grace.