“You [God] are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon.” – Flannery O’Connor
I don’t have a poem for today so I am cheating with a few lines from my new copy of A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O’Connor. It is newly published. Our pre-ordered copy arrived yesterday, so it is about as new as it can possibly be–to me and to the world.
I’ve only read a little so I do not have much to say about it yet, except that it is certainly poetic. I am a longtime fan of Flannery O’Connor, and especially her letters in The Habit of Being, but it is clear to me that this little prayer journal will reveal a much more intimate–and youthful– side of her than what letters reveal. A part of me worried about feeling voyeuristic, prying into these youthful yearnings, but my husband astutely pointed out that, had she wanted to keep this journal hidden from the world, she would likely have thought to get rid of it before her death. She was not exactly obscure at that point, and her death was the opposite of sudden.
The journal is short and I personally (being far from an expert, and without even yet having finished it) find myself preparing to approach it as juvenilia. Why? Certainly not because she was lacking the intellectual brilliance in her early twenties that she would demonstrate by and by. I think instead it is because of the dramatic irony. That is, the reader of this prayer journal already knows something that its then-innocent author did not: the enormous trials that were just ahead of her, hidden from her sight. And yet the trials– the fires of art and suffering, suffering and art– are the things she seems to be yearning for in this journal, as if prophetically sensing the shape of her life.
For several weeks now I’ve been writing our weekly schedule out on the chalkboard. Things get added, subtracted, and rearranged, but overall this is working well and keeping me on track. However, last week was extremely rough. There was a lot of tension every day between my girls and me and everything I attempted seemed to flop miserably. After the weekend I resolved to make a fresh start. The night I took this photo, the room felt peaceful and made me feel hopeful.
Some people say that public schools are the devil’s playground. I wonder if homeschooling isn’t as well. The insidious beasts of expectations, ideals, and perfectionism seem particularly attracted to this seemingly safe shelter. For my own part, the place inside of me where I plan, plot, worry, and project has been especially gullible– drawn into the arena with the lions– since I’ve decided to take on the arguably crazy-making job of piloting My Children’s Education. Last week I was harassed, over-thinking everything, worrying a lot, and seeing failure at every turn. Then I realized that it was not My Children’s Education that was beating me up, but my own ego and pride which make me a slave to shadows dressed up in various costumes like, for example, My Children’s Education, among other shape-shifting possibilities.
Flannery O’Connor compares her own ego to a shadow big enough to nearly block out the moon. This week has been so much better for me. I am putting distance between myself and the bullying beasties that come alive in that shadow, and finding my way into that little crescent shaped sliver of light– mercy, help, rest. Help, rest, mercy. Pray without ceasing is the recommendation. The implication is that the moment one ceases to depend completely on God, the enslaving ego automatically takes over–again. Flannery O’Connor goes on to pray,
Let me henceforth ask you with resignation–that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind–realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.