Hammock prayer: What holds me up


There is something perilous about a hammock.  Getting in requires dexterity, balance, and good sense of timing.  Staying in requires the same; one false move and you could end up tush over head, as I have learned on more than one occasion.  (Last month, my husband did a dramatic, unintentional flip of his own, but somehow managed to right himself without spilling any of his beer.  I aspire to such greatness.)

When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I spent some time in the hammock by the lake.  Once I got safely settled, it was enormously relaxing.  I put my hands behind my head and looked up at the canopy of trees above me and enjoyed the gentle swaying movement, side to side.  I could hear boats on the lake and my kids playing and the little gentle rustle of the leaves above me.  It was a good place to pray.

And I thought about how strange a sensation a hammock is. You are suspended, but you are not holding yourself up.  Something else is.  Something else is keeping you there, mid-air, with open space between you and the ground.  All you have to do is relax.

I’m used to holding myself up, keeping myself going.  Like many moms, I’m used to keeping a few other people going,  too:  I balance schedules, pick up and drop off, plan the week’s meals, fold laundry,  remember to buy birthday gifts for the kids to take to parties, fill out the obligatory forms for fieldtrips, soothe after nightmares, plan doctor’s appointments.   I am the primary support for a few other people, not just myself.  And though that is a richly rewarding vocation, it often makes me very tired.

Lying in the hammock, looking up at the blue sky, I thought about what a treat it was to have something other than myself hold me up.   And then I thought about how God actually does that, all the time.  It may not be a physical support in the way the hammock is, but God’s divine love sustains me and supports me every day, in ways both obvious and subtle.

Sometimes I recognize that support in real time, as it’s happening.   I often recognize it in the people God sends into my path when I’m in a vulnerable place, or when I come away consciously sustained by weekly Mass.

Sometimes that support takes a less visible, less obvious form. The air I breathe and the water I drink, the sunlight that makes my garden grow and brings me such joy: I don’t always think of these things, but they are ways that I am supported day after day.  They are all evidence of God’s goodness, the goodness  that brought this world and every one of us into being.

Because even though there are days when I feel like I’m only able to stay upright through my own strenuous efforts, the truth is that I have a support system all around me, a system of people and nature and love and no small amount of grace.  Those things hold me,  and don’t let me fall.

Sometimes I just need to pause, put my hands behind my head, look up at the sky, and remember that.

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