I’ve been thinking lately about finding my center. I know, it sounds like ridiculously futile, New Age recreation. However, I mean this in an intensely practical manner. I’m not interested in “finding” my center because I think it has gone missing in some subconscious or metaphorical way. If anything, it is I who have gone missing.
As Yeats writes in “The Second Coming,” ” Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / … The best lack all conviction while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Perhaps this is an odd reference, but if I am to war my way through the thousands of daily skirmishes – the decisions and the distractions and the desperations – and still place my head to the pillow in peace, then there must be a center that reels me back in, day after day. That keeps me breathing and thinking and just courageous enough to look in the eye this ravenous world with its starving stare. It is not my center that has strayed from me, but I from it. And each day that I do, things fall apart; the center cannot – or will not – hold.
Much of what I have written so far might seem pointlessly abstract. However, when we begin to consider our centers – that which holds our life together and gives it meaning and purpose – I believe many of us, if not all of us, will find that we must speak thus. Words only go so far, whether they are passed between friends, expressed in lines of poetry, partnered with a melody, or delivered from a pulpit. Eventually, even the words fail us. (Such is a frightening and sad reality for a teacher of literature and composition to accept.)
Perhaps this is why “centering prayer,” as it is popularly known these days, does not depend solely on spoken words to communicate our desires and our attitudes to God. There is even more basic forms of expression that go on, such as breathing, posture, and that wonderful communique, silence. Sometimes, we have to leave all our many babbling words behind in order to genuinely express our inmost inclinations.
As a Christian – specifically one who desperately wants that to mean something more than a political preference or a moral mindset – my center is Christ. Not the tired metaphor of Christ “living in my heart as my personal Lord and Savior,” (was there ever a more selfish way to describe the work of the Savior in someone’s life?), but as the unifying and very real God drawing every single aspect of my life into communion with Him. Christ, the benevolent giver of mercy and grace, is proclaimed as Lord over the lives of his followers. But unlike some eternal foreman or power-hungry overseer, this Lord draws us into a relationship that transforms servanthood to friendship, worldliness to meekness, selfishness to humility.
Finding my center means daily doing whatever it takes to live in communion with this wonder-filled Christ. What I am beginning to discover is that while I seek to do this, life does not slow down. The skirmishes keep tumbling over my horizons, making the need to commune with my center even more necessary. After all, without our “circumferences,” as the writer Richard Rohr puts it, there is no center. Without the world around us turning and turning in Yeats’ “widening gyre,” we may not even know we had a center, let alone what that center must be. We would be flung into the depths of our lives, fighting and scrabbling our way through the muck of earthly experience, without any awareness that turning with us and waiting to draw us back into a sense of wholeness and purpose is something – Someone – greater than it all.
Evangelism, then, begins with reminding people there is something to which all the spokes in our wheel connect. Something that remains central while we are hurled back and forth by the centrifugal, retrained chaos of our years, our months and our days. This is the truth of living, and only once it is established can a greater Truth be recognized and possibly accepted.
And when things fall apart, as they are apt to do again and again, it is the greater Truth that holds out his steady hands and calmly asks us to take hold and find our footing once again. Finding the center, and finding the courage to hold on to Him, is the greatest undertaking a person will ever face.
Maybe words go farther than I thought…