Two years ago, my counselor recommended I buy a little book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh called “Gift from the Sea”. She believed its wisdom, though written over 60 years ago, would benefit me on my journey. I ignored her suggestion and forgot about the book.
A year later she again mentioned the book. That time I wrote it down on a notepad…and promptly forgot about the notepad and the suggestion.
A month ago, I cleaned out my purse and the little notepad fell out and opened to the page with the reference to “Gift from the Sea”. I made a mental note to stop at Barnes and Noble to pick it up…and then forgot to do so.
Last week I went out with my best friend, someone with whom I can talk about all things personal, professional, and spiritual. We exchanged Christmas gifts and as I opened the bag she handed me, I saw “Gift from the Sea” nestled in there among the tissue paper. My jaw dropped and I put my hand over my heart. I told her the story and added, “It seems I am meant to read this book!” She was delighted. She had no idea the book had ever been suggested to me.
I started it two nights ago and find myself wanting to savor it instead of devour it. Its wisdom is both comforting and disturbing, a simultaneous confirmation that the spiritual path I’m walking is the “right” one for me and a call to further conversion and deeper commitment to my faith.
Perhaps what was most striking was that the first chapter of Lindbergh’s book speaks of freedom or “indifference” to the outcomes of life, a topic that I’ve studied in grad school and one that came up in my spiritual direction session a week ago. My spiritual director encouraged me to consider my attachment to one outcome over another and how that may be impeding my spiritual growth.
In this first chapter, Lindbergh writes of the myriad gifts of the sea, but the need to wait patiently and with indifference for what may be deposited by the waves at our feet. As she so eloquently puts it:
“[These treasures] must not be sought for or — heaven forbid! — dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.” (Lindbergh, 1955, p.11)
I read that passage over and over again Sunday night. I reflected on how my desire for certain outcomes in my life (marriage over singleness; a higher paying job over my current job; a house instead of an apartment) may be an indication of “not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith”. This is the essence of the spiritual concept of “indifference”. Remaining “empty, open, choiceless” allows us to go where God leads when God calls. My attachments to certain outcomes make it difficult for me to be truly free to respond to God’s call and belie my lack of faith; as if any outcome I can think of is better than what God has planned.
I’m not sure yet what this means for me personally, professionally, or spiritually, but I am in awe of the God whose perfect timing and orchestration allowed for this little book of wisdom to come into my hands this Christmas. And I’m grateful for the gift of my counselor who suggested the book, my friend who gave me the book, and my spiritual director who guided me to these new questions. Gifts are all around us. May we all be truly free to see them and embrace them.
Peace, joy, and health,