I just came back from grocery shopping, my usual Saturday morning routine. This was my first shopping expedition during Lent, and I note that having an intention of “proximity” combined with some Orthodox vegetarian eating habits is proving a bit of a challenge in East Coast early March. My intention did make me pause and think, though, about what I usually just grab and buy without much thought as to where, when, why, and how it was grown. As I always learn: that is really the point of Lent. It isn’t really about what we give up or take on, but the intention that it creates in us.
Suffice it to say, it was a much longer trip than usual. I’m also really happy with the interesting and creative combinations that I’m planning to prepare this week. Whether my family is or not remains to be seen. But, I digress.
I have to admit one big, huge, realization that occurred to me while shopping, though: proximity isn’t just where your body finds itself. Proximity is a state of presence.
In a very real way, what I wanted to eat for breakfast all week was avocado toast. That is definitely not local to Virginia. But, I paused to think about it deeply instead of superficially. Avocado toast is basically what I eat every morning that I’m in California for my seminary intensives, possibly with some berries and yogurt to alternate. I’ve never lived on the West Coast until these multi-week intensives, so I am part amazed tourist and part local partaker when it comes to what is grown locally in that shorter…but very real…bicoastal part of my life right now. Local avocados (and Meyer lemons, when I’m there in winter) are like a culinary communion to this part of the country in which I am learning and forming for ministry. While shopping today on the East Coast, I came across some lovely avocados from my West Coast second-home and it was practically a sacramental experience. So, I bought two (at about four times the price I will pay for one in June), and some local-to-me sprouts, whole grain bread and an (admittedly, local hot-house grown) hydroponic tomato.
So, I am writing and eating my lenten brunch…and feeling richly connected, proximally, thinking about my friends who are living on the West Coast right now and those who, like me, live all around the country and will gather together a few months from now for our intensive studies together. Eventually, our twice yearly mutual communion in chapel worship, during classes, and over shared meals…featuring local lemons and avocado and loquats and more…will live out its days. It is a season, and a beautiful one that I cherish and celebrate. Our proximity to each other after that season will need to be either carefully constructed or virtually supported, but it will still be there if we are intentional about creating and maintaining it. But it will require that intention, just as our lives of faith are intentionally nurtured as well.
Proximity isn’t accidental. It requires effort and intention. It is an act lived into through heart and soul, not only body.
Today, I taste proximity. And it is a good, and holy thing.
Holy One, draw us close in thought, in heart, and in spirit to each other, and to you.
For further reflection: Psalm 34: 1-10
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your[a] faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.