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Grounded in love

Artwork of Mary holding infant Jesus

Members of a growing Michigan Conference Contemplative Cohort invite you to spend Fridays in Advent exploring a form of contemplative prayer. This week, Rev. Sari Brown explains how she’s found the embodied caregiving of her young son a fitting spiritual practice.

Pastor, Williamston UMC

“Then Mary said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.’ Then the angel left her” (Luke 1:38).

Then the angel left her. It sounded like such a beautiful, transcendent undertaking in the moment. Mary would conceive a child called the Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit would overshadow her. The fruit of her womb was called holy. But then the angel left her, and so did the spiritual glow. Then there was the nausea and fatigue, the heartburn and swollen feet, the lack of understanding and support from the people around her, the birth that did not go the way she planned, and the ceaseless, exhausting, disorienting work of caring for a tiny, fragile, helpless human.

Last Advent, I decided to begin the journey of becoming a parent, though I, too, was not married. I felt that God was calling me to the vocation of motherhood outside a conventional mold. During Advent, when I was five months pregnant, I resonated deeply with Mary’s story, her sense of purpose, and her vision (along with her child’s) of overturning the world’s power structures. Before I made this leap of faith, I had several dreams that were like angelic visitations. They described in detail the child I would bring into the world, how beautifully they would arrive, and how I could integrate my other callings and creative visions with parenting.

Then the angel left me. Through a grueling, incapacitating pregnancy, a traumatic C-section, and a postpartum period full of stress, anxiety, and grief, I kissed goodbye to all my lofty notions of how blissful and transcendent this process would be. After the serendipity and sense of “meant to be” around my baby’s conception, the expectations for his birth and being a mother did not turn out how my dreams portended.

For many years, I grounded myself in intentionality and spiritual connection with an elaborate daily contemplative practice that involved prayer, chants, songs, readings, and meditation. Now, I am lucky if I have one extra minute to meditate when I sit up in bed in the morning. I’m lucky if I remember to do it through the fog of stress and haste.

What I have discovered, though, is that being a parent is nothing but grounding. The idea of grounding as a spiritual practice is in fashion with those of us who seek a spirituality that dissolves the illusory divide between the physical and spiritual, the mystical and mundane. Now, I have no choice but to be grounded in my body, in the earthy rhythms of sustaining life, in the physical needs of health, growth, and connection. I joke that I am so grounded that I am stuck in the dirt.

My spiritual practice now is inseparable from embodied caregiving. Bedtime rituals with diaper changes, cardboard books, and lullabies have replaced my morning rituals of candles and ancient chants. My mindfulness practice is breastfeeding and battling the temptation to get things done on my cell phone. My moments of spiritual transcendence are the rare occasions I manage to sit and watch my son and delight in him with no agenda.

I miss the transcendent focus of a proper spiritual practice. Yet the love for my son has exceeded my expectations. His smile bathes me in holy light. His excited roars and serious babbles are angel choruses. His little hands playing with my face and his dark eyes gazing into mine fill me with a fierce, boundless love, unlike anything I have felt before.

By being deeply rooted in this earthy, bodily caregiving practice, I am laying the secure foundation for my son to grow into a force of love that can flourish along with my spiritual and creative work. I am grounding both of us in the practice of love so that we can grow together into the vision of overturning the world’s power structures, however he might embrace that calling. I am doing the Lord’s work, with or without the angels.

Invitation to the Practice of Embodied Caregiving

In whatever acts of caring for bodies, homes, and lives occupy you, choose a time when you can be unhurried and fully present. Set a timer for 3, 5, or 10 minutes. During this time, focus entirely on the one you care for or the task at hand with deep love.

For more information on joining the Michigan Conference Contemplative Cohort, email Lisa Batten at [email protected].

For information on upcoming 2023 Contemplative Retreats the Michigan Conference offers, click the links below.

February 16-18, 2023
Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center
Learn more and register by clicking this secure link.

October 16-18, 2023
Lake Huron Retreat Center
Learn more and register by clicking this secure link.

Last Updated on October 31, 2023

The Michigan Conference