On devotion

It’s always tricky to attempt to write about something as lofty as devotion. Words of faith and truth and high ideals have an energy that, if not approached in just the right way, can backfire miserably. But I like to think that since this blog is basically experiential, not scholarly, I can attempt to express my take on any word or words.

On devotion. I remember praying to have the experience of devotion. I felt as though I had no commitment to anything or anyone. And I can tell you, that was a very low moment. I recognized that folks were devoted to their work, families,  communities, politics, and addictions. Where, I wondered, does my devotion lie?

Recently, a friend’s father died. I was reading the obituary, and the words were so powerful that I almost cried. He was 99, and the sentence that moved me stated “he is survived by his devoted wife of 70 years…” Seventy years!?!  Most of us can’t figure out how to be devoted to a candy bar for three minutes, let alone to a person for more than five. I can count on one hand the number of couples I know who’ve been devoted to each other for more than 20 years. Do we even know what devotion means anymore?

I was blessed to grow up with noteworthy examples of devotion: devotion to God and church; devotion to work; devotion to relationships; devotion to a better life. It was a challenging time in black history, and for some families even personal relationships were extremely rocky. But I saw something in them that the obituary triggered in my memory:  in that world, people didn’t change partners like socks because they were devoted to something–bigger. Devotion is linked to thriving. (So says me, but argue if you want to…)

About two years ago, I went to a couple of house blessings where a Brahmin priest was offering prayers of protection and prosperity for the families who lived in the homes. These were families who I would describe as very devoted to God. When I say devoted to God, I mean that kind of focus where a person feels that everything they do and everyone they meet is a result of the love of that Source – – whatever you want to call it.

Now, there were a couple of things about these blessings that caught my attention. The first was the respectful and loving way that the families welcomed the visiting priest and his wife. The second, and I remember being fixated by it,  was what I interpreted as the devotion of the priest’s wife to her husband while she assisted him in the ceremonies. I couldn’t stop watching her.

What was that look on her face? Now, there is one thing I know for sure–and I want to be clear about this. Devotion is not mental slavery. Devotion is not blind allegiance. Devotion is not accepting abuse or humiliation. Devotion is not swimming in self-hatred to idolize another.  Clear?  Okay.

Pure devotion — however off-the-mark we observe it to be — is linked to the heart. So, I’m back to my question. Where does my devotion lie?

I am devoted to nature. I’m devoted to blue skies, bright sun, and ocean breezes. I’m devoted to people who work the land and provide the food that allows me to offer meals to friends and family.

I am devoted to democracy.

I want to think that I’m devoted to prayer and God and the world that this great Source created.  Not too long ago, I met a woman who talked about her devotion to her spiritual path. Her path is different from mine. But when I looked at her face, I really got her love for her God. And I guess that’s the key. Devotion is linked to love. So says me; argue if you want to…

And that, my friends, is my word for today. Devotion.

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