Box Elder Bugs

August 1, 2020

Dear God,

I’m doing the best I can.

Frank (Children’s Letters to God)

With everything upside down, I have been trying to maintain some sense of spirituality and sanity. I wake up in the morning, walk down to our church, unlock the back door, and stroll back to our cry room which I have turned into a prayer room.

I have made a little table into an altar with a votive candle on it along with a Franciscan cross and a colorful small rock.  I sit down light the candle and say a prayer. “God, may I surrender to your love, joy, and peace. May I be more patient, kind, and generous. I thank you for your faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. May I be more like you. Amen.”

Then I enter into centering prayer for twenty to thirty minutes. This morning practice sets the tone for my day. It is an informal ritual of a “peace that surpasses understanding.” When I am done praying, I gently blow out the candle and leave the prayer room full of the Spirit, or so I think…

I walk back home to make breakfast. Just walking through our front door, box elder bugs swarm all around me. I brush them off. Box elder bugs are napping on the kitchen floor. A box elder bug is stuck on the butter we forgot to cover up. One bug is swimming in a half-empty glass of water. Where did all these bugs come from? They are everywhere!

The phone rings. The doctor’s office calls to remind me of a dental appointment. “No, your insurance will not cover your crown. Have a good day!”

The back left tire of our car is nearly flat; hopefully, it is just a slow leak. The bank calls needing some information from us now! Andie is back in Sacramento where everyone is wearing a mask and Ro is in Sioux City, Iowa, where hardly anyone is wearing a mask. I worry about them. Like two ships passing in the night, Jennifer and I hardly notice one another.

I eat breakfast and go back to church to answer what seems like a thousand emails. They are more plentiful than the box elder bugs. Will I ever catch up? What will our church be like post virus? Did I mention that I worry?

Box elder bugs are everywhere. Where did the peace and calm from my morning prayer go?

I will tell you something. I secretly would like to be like a cerebral monk. Wouldn’t it be good to wear a long black robe and walk with my hands clasped behind my back in perfect tranquility? To pray throughout the day, offer insights on life, and be gentle and generous with every person I meet?

What does it mean to be a Spiritual person? Often, except for that thirty minutes to an hour in the early morning, my life seems anything but spiritual.

Michael Yaconelli writes, “Spiritual is most commonly used by Christians to describe people who pray all day long, read their Bibles constantly, never get angry or rattled, possess special powers, and have the inside track to God.” I love the monks and nuns I have met; they have a “certain kind of spirituality” but what about the rest of us?

As Yaconelli says, “What about those of us who have a husband or wife, three kids, two cats, and a washing machine that has stopped working? What about those of us who are single, work fifty to sixty hours a week and have parents who wonder why we are not married? What about those of us who are divorced and still trying to heal from that broken relationship?

Is there a spirituality for the rest of us who are not secluded in a monastery, who don’t have it all together and probably never will? Can we live with persistent box elder bugs, flat tires, broken lawn mowers, tense relationships, and still be spiritual?

“Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God being present in the mess of our unfixedness,” says Yaconelli. Jesus loved messy people. He loved the thief on the cross, the demon-possessed man, the woman caught in adultery, the disciples (they were messy!), the blind, and the sick. All of us. He saw the goodness in people.

Have we lost track of Jesus’ love, joy, peace, and kindness because we think life is about being “perfect”? Spirituality is about beautiful, imperfect relationships. “Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection, and instead, seek God who is present in the tangledness of our lives,” says Yaconelli.

May we lighten up on ourselves and lighten up on other imperfect, precious human beings.

May we accept God’s love for us no matter what.

May we embrace our beautiful, messy spiritual lives.

And may we see the beauty in our box elder bugs.

God has created all.

Blessings and peace,