The Space of a Breath



“Always, we begin again.”

I imagine St. Benedict pausing as he writes down these words in his Rule of Life, and looking up at me, gazing intensely at me to see if I am hearing him, if I am understanding this most important of lines.

He knows, I think. What it’s like to be a mama with two little ones. What it’s like to be juggling a dozen different demands each day. What it’s like to feel stretched so very thin, to worry you’re going to give way at any moment and it will all fall apart.

I begin again a thousand times a day. When my baby boy wakes for the fourth (fifth, sixth?) time of the night and decides the day will start now, hours before light begins to spill through the curtains. When I snap at my daughter for making such a mess at the dinner table when I’ve reminded her a thousand times. When the sheer noise of two tired and grumpy tinies is more than I can cope with and I want to run and hide in the bathroom.!(Only, the lock is broken so they’d find me.)

I begin again when the train pulls out of the station just as I reach the platform and I see the tiny margin I’d built in for me-time slipping away. When I speak up in my evening class and see everyone look at me blankly. When I go another month with nothing written on my blog and next to nothing in my journal. When the agent calls and we’ve been outbid on a house again.

I’m discovering in these intense days, the grace that can be found in a single breath.

One breath. Not always a very deep one either (because the kids have already moved on to the next drama or mess). But there, in that single second’s pause, the Spirit rushes in, floods my head and heart with her clear and cleansing rivers of living water, their holy roar filling up my ears, drowning out the clamouring tired, angry thoughts.

And then silence–blessed silence–and I hear the whisper of grace to me.

“Always, we begin again.”

It takes just a second, sometimes only half a second. Then I am scooping up my chubby boy and soothing his spirit, crouching down to my tenacious and vulnerable girl and listening to her as she figures out this ever-expanding world again, raising my hand to offer another thought to the class.

I think St. Benedict understood. He understood how often I feel completely incapable to the task set before me. He understood how many times the brokenness in me–the fear, the impatience, the selfishness–rises up and overwhelms me. He understood how futile it can feel, when I worry that I will never be enough for these myriad roles, for these precious little ones.

He also understood grace, better than I have yet grasped in my many years of wrestling with it. Grace that is like the waves on the seashore–wave after wave washing up over the sand without pause, without ever missing a beat, sometimes gentle and sparkling, sometimes knocking me awake again with the force of its message.

So I take another breath and I begin again. And in the space of that breath I remember to let the waves spill over and out of me to my children, to my family and friends, to the post man who dared to ring the bell while the baby was napping … Grace after grace after grace.

Always, we begin again.