“Be gentle with yourself.”
This is what my spiritual director tells me at the end of each session. I spend an hour explaining some aspect of my spiritual journey and she reliably responds, “be gentle with yourself.” She could just as easily be saying, “Don’t forget to eat” or “Take naps every few hundred miles,” as if I was leaving her office for a road trip.
Which I kind of am.
I’m a person who forgets to eat. I’ll drive a hundred miles more than I should because I’m certain I can handle it. I am reliably not gentle with myself. It sometimes feels like my default setting. I have my reasons, but none of them are very gentle either.
Sometimes even my prayer life feels rigorous; un-gentle. I fixate on keeping up a regular routine, or being mindful of our tradition’s liturgical calendar. Somewhere I read that Episcopalians who feel a call to ministry should pray the Daily Office at least once, but preferably twice, a day. I’ve committed to this practice several times. Rarely, though, in a way that could be described as “gentle.”
But if we thought of being gentle with ourselves as a form of prayer?
What if we – I – tried to imagine that the words of my spiritual director were the words of the Holy Spirit, and that she was speaking them to me as a reminder of my belovedness? Is it so hard to imagine that God would prefer us to be gentle with ourselves than not? We are called to love God and to love one another… and we are a part of the “one another.”
If we can learn to be gentle with ourselves, perhaps we will better know how to be gentle with those who God brings to us in our lives and vocations.
So I ask you to consider:
If being gentle with ourself is a form of prayer, how does that look in our day to day life? How does that prayer take shape for you?