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Barefoot and Preaching

By Leah Perrault

01/20/2016

Leah PerraultPractising spirituality like we are learning to walk

Over the last several weeks, our baby girl has been learning to walk — a deeply spiritual practice, if you ask me. It begins with tentative and almost unintentional experimentation before it gives way to gradual practising, when circumstances (like siblings, food or pets) do not require the speed of crawling. I love the thrill of success written all over their faces when they realize they can do it, even if it is only for a moment. I love the stubborn refusal to walk on anyone else’s terms. I love the way walking moves from a curiosity, to a determination, to an assumption.

Grace shows up in such ordinary things. When Charlize’s first steps spanned the end of one year and the beginning of another, something new happened in me: the concept of resolution gave way to readiness.

Charlize did not plan to walk. She did not understand it as a concept, Google it, break it into steps and write deadlines in her agenda. Her natural curiosity aligned with her growth to make a miracle. She pushed herself to standing. Saw a new perspective. Scared herself a little. Grinned. Sat down. Rested. Tried it again.

So it is with spirituality. It’s not just a hipster buzzword. Spirituality is nothing other than the practices that allow us to live peacefully in reality. When I run out of solutions for making my own life work and realize that I cannot build the world the way I want it all the time, I find that I am ready to practice a spirituality that changes my life.

Reaching the legal age of adulthood somehow gave me the impression that I was in charge of my growth. When I find myself trapped in that illusion, I can laugh instead of trying to force myself with resolutions and resolve. When I am ready, I can practice some more. What if the great spiritual masters are not people who have it all together, but people who learn how to love their weakest selves?

I am impatient and arrogant. I am suffocatingly helpful. I adore eating and despise exercise. My standards are unreachable and knowing it does not seem to change them. I am critical and I have sharp edges. I used to hide these things (in organized and pretty shoe box systems I found on Pinterest), dressed up like assets, afraid that if others knew them, they would feel the same way about me that I felt about myself: disappointed. And when I couldn’t keep stuffing things into that pretty closet anymore, it blew up and I realized everyone already knew. And they loved me anyway.

What if the great spiritual masters are not people who have it all together, but people who learn how to love their weakest selves? What if spiritual beginners and spiritual masters have one key thing in common: they practice walking peacefully, both when they don’t know how and when they think they have it mastered. We all begin to practice walking without knowing how. Spirituality invites us to continue to practice so we can find the same delight in it that we found the first time.

I have grown tired of the pace of my life lately. I am weary of the rushing and my own impatience, so at the same time as Charlize was taking the time to learn to walk, I was ready to take the word “hurry” out of my vocabulary. I am practising gentleness with time. Since then, we have been late more often. I have tied more shoes and dried more tears. We have laughed in the mudroom more. And I have failed as many times as I have succeeded. So I sit down. Rest. Try again.

Every time I see my kids’ faces instead of my watch, God delights in me. When I mess up and say sorry, God’s eyes fill with proud tears. We are so desperately loved, as we are. When I am ready to stop beating myself up, to stop assuming that I have the answers, to stop planning my success to death, I am ready to walk barefoot into practising spirituality as though I have never been here before. I am ready to be loved and to grow, to practice walking all over again.

Perrault is a wife and mom, a grateful employee of Emmanuel Care, and a speaker, writer and consultant at www.leahperrault.com