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IT'S NOT ALWAYS WHAT YOU READ THAT COUNTS
November 4, 2005
 
I've had just about enough Ezra for the year, Harry says.

Me, too, I say. But we'll be finished with him soon.

Devotees of the Daily Office don't choose what scripture passages we'll read every day. They're chosen for us, in a two-year recurring cycle of lessons that you find listed in the back of the prayer book. We just show up and read what's set before us. Often this is fine -- you spend weeks in something exciting, like the story of Joseph or the Exodus. But sometimes it's Ezra, who really does drone on.

Harry and I sound like a pair of teenagers complaining about their homework. I think it must seem odd to people who don't do this, that modern adult people should sit down and read something we don't necessarily find interesting, just because it's assigned. Surely I should read things I want to read, they think. It's hard enough to make myself to read and pray as it is. How am I ever going to become faithful if what I'm reading isn't interesting?

It's not hard, though. Your habit carries you through the boring bits, much the same as your marriage carries you through those moments when your spouse isn't quite what you would call thrilling. As your friendship helps you sit patiently on the phone and listen to your friend prattle on about something you don't care much about. Maybe this moment isn't our ecstatic union. But I still love her. He is still my friend.

The relationship matters more than the unrealistic expectation that every moment in it will be thrill-packed. We show up every day, because we don't know which it will be: it may be that the passage you expect to be dry as a bone will yield something you never noticed was there, something you absolutely needed to hear today. It may be that a prayer you've said a thousand times, five thousand times, suddenly clicks into place in a new way. You just never know.

In the meantime, the familiar sameness carries you. You and God are both here, right where you always are, you and God and everybody else who prays, throughout the whole world -- we are mystically joined to one another in prayer, all of us, whether prayer on a given day turns out to be a mountain-top experience or something considerably less than that. You sit quietly for a time, after the prayers are finished and before you close with "Let Us Bless the Lord." Your mind settles down, turning all its concerns and worries over to God for the day or for the night, commending all that occupies you to the loving care of the one who made you.

The boring reading from Ezra was part what took you to the place from which you could turn all of it over to God. It's not always what you read that counts. Sometimes it's just that you read.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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