My mind has been turning around a word, the way a gymnast turns around the uneven bars or pommel horse, perhaps. Getting my thoughts around it has been a feat and the meaning is starting to land more firmly the more time I spend with it.
The word is devotion.
I came to it this morning as I sat down post coffee, pre oatmeal. It was somewhat of a momentous occasion in that I put the first inky marks in a new journal, which for me is no casual thing. I’ve recently come to the end of one given to me by some dear friends. They found a perfect-bound, fine grained journal in Nepal on a trip. It’s pages are soft as silk and they gave it to me as a gift. This was back in 2004 when we were living in Asia together but about to part ways.
I didn’t write in it for awhile. Partly because there were pages remaining in other journals (of which I have many) and also because the gift was given with such sincerity, for me, the act of marking up the pages had to match the act of generosity.
And now I sit at the end of the tome. I began writing in the volume while in Kenya, experiences and observations that would really shape me. The moment was a watershed, really, in my writing and personal life, where in a new way I discovered my voice as a writer. Of course I am still in a process of that discovery, but it was a defining moment (upon reflection) of how and what I write.
And since that moment, the journal has been on the receiving end of a lot of penmanship, often nearly illegible, filled with joy, contemplation, anxiety and even grief. It, if inanimate things can be such things, has been a close companion for more than five years.
So, this morning, as I opened a beautiful new leather-bound paperblanks (Black Moroccan) that was given as a gift, I took pause.
1. profound dedication; consecration.
2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one’s wealth and time to scientific advancement.
The word, in the evangelical world at least, might have lost some of its clarity. The working definition of the term in many lives denotes a short period of time set aside to concentrate on spiritual matters, spending time in prayer, Bible reading, grappling with the Divine. That elusive time we want to avoid that might lack the profundity and affection we long for simply because, as a time set aside for such things, it is loaded with expectations. Especially if we’re busy or discouraged, time set aside for “devotion” can be an intimidating thing. Maybe not for you, but at least for me.
I had a thought to make this new journal a journal of prayer. But quite quickly I didn’t know what that could mean. Upon further reflection, as I put my papermate to the page it seemed to me that no matter what my journals tend to be just that anyway. For, what is prayer if not expressing the deep and inner things, contending, hoping for, confessing and believing? What is prayer if not asking, reaching, declaring, and laughing about it all too?
One thing journaling has been in my life, especially over the last decade, is an exercise in bringing my whole self before God. Consciously and unconsciously, freely and with resistance.
My recently retired journal has shown me that friends who live a life with God also help to nurture our own devotion and that the word is not one only to be internalized, but to be shared with others, earnestly.
It seems a romantic and necessary thing to reclaim the meaning of devotion internally and externally; to willfully – even profoundly – dedicate our time and words to God. Wonder of wonders it can be done even as the oatmeal cools on the burner, the aroma of roasted coffee beans filling the air.