“When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace.”
-Gerard Manley Hopkins
Sometimes reconciliation is hardest in your own heart, with your own mysterious self.
We are fickle toward each other, and therefore fickle toward ourselves. And, as Hopkins says, “piecemeal peace is poor peace.”
This has been a season of forced slowing down. Notice, I didn’t say a season of rest. It hasn’t been one of rest, really. (I’m still learning how to change my over-committed habits: two steps forward, one silly commitment I shouldn’t have said yes to and a step back.)
Last May my oldest son developed a food allergy we can’t seem to name or define, and so food has taken on a new, dangerous hue. What will hurt him next? What is hiding in this packaged container?
And just as that season of uncertainty creeped in to my kitchen, my youngest, my baby, lost weight. Going from 17 to 16 pounds is no small thing. We loaded up the fat content, and spent hours a day sitting in front of his high chair, willing him to eat, to drink, to choose—for his own small body—to grow.
Sometimes reconciliation is directly connected to the speed at which we feed ourselves.
I am an hour collector/monger. Holding tight to fragments of time and throwing those collections of minutes out to the people around me. I can give you thirty minutes. You forty five. I can make it to this meeting but must leave by a quarter to that hour.
We drive, we work, we cook, we pace. So rarely do we stop to take breaths, to watch the clock pass slow on our count.
What is it to be reconciled to time?
What efficiency has taught me about life, real food has sought to undo. Stirring a pot of broth and vegetables—those foods that will not hurt my oldest, and may nourish my youngest—is not efficient. A knife and vegetable on a cutting board? That motion cannot really be sped up. Yes, of course we’ve added instruments. Of course, we’ve bought pre-chopped and pre-packaged, all those packages filled with additional preservers, the things that may just cause my son’s throat to swell tight.
No, this should not be sped up. Food popping around the rolling liquid. Water boils at the same temperature it always has, no matter how fast I can download a recipe, or send a text, or post a picture. What is realest is the food, grown and gathered, washed and sliced in front of me, changing composition in the heat.
And babies with special needs who need to build their mouth’s muscle tone? They drink at a pace that does not work with my schedule of accomplishments. There are books to write and people to impress! There are PTAs to volunteer for and boards on which to serve! Yet each sip from his therapeutic cup is hard-earned, each swallow builds a network of neurons that will help my baby drink for the rest of his life. I cannot move faster when I sit before him.
And, I’m learning, I don’t want to move faster.
What does it mean to embrace the slow work of feeding my children? It begins with reconciling with myself. “I’ll not play hypocrite / to own my heart” says Hopkins. There are two parts to my irreconciled self: The me that doesn’t want to slow down because I love to charge ahead faster than the other people around me. I love to feel capable, special. There is an indescribable high in being seen as unique and trustworthy. But that part of me that needs to be impressive is at odds with the Real Me, the me that longs for rest and quiet. The monger of minutes or the mother with the therapy cup, lifting a protein packed yogurt drink to the lips of my 17 month old? They are at odds.
My two parts need to reconcile.
Most of my life is piecemeal peace: Scrambling to feed my children as we rush from school to practice to home, checking my email along the way.
But before there is peace, there must be honesty. Before we break free from the patterns that hold us hostage, we need to find the small practical tasks that teach us to slow, to pray, to search our own hearts, to listen to God’s sweet whisper.
For me it is the slow work of the kitchen. Water boils at the same pace it always has: the pace at which children’s bodies heal themselves, the pace at which babies grow and strengthen and become themselves.
Am I brave enough to reconcile to myself here in the kitchen, to lean into the slow rhythm of the goodness in front of me?