I went to sleep last night to the rhythm of the rain. And sleep came quickly. My Zoe-dog was curled in the crook of my legs (she was hoping my daughter would forget to escort her to her crate for the night). I woke early this morning—before dawn. Rested, but restless.
This is the month of May. A month that marks significant milestones in my life. Boundary stones placed by choice and by default. Many of my firsts and lasts have occurred in this month. Needless to say this is the month of contemplation and reflection.
Like worn rosary beads I am clicking these stones through my fingers—rolling, rubbing, and turning each one. These stone beads evoke a myriad of emotion: melancholy, delight, sadness, doubt, joy, frustration, eagerness, hunger, and confusion. Several beads have been added in the last year and still have rough and sharp edges. I have been on this earth for forty-two years and there have been some years I have added only one bead and others I have had to add ten. My string got a lot heavier and a lot longer this year.
I keep rubbing and rolling.
Some of the stone beads are still completely unfamiliar and foreign. Eventually time and friction will make them relatively smooth and utterly familiar. But right now they seem to be too large for the string—out of place and out of sync. My natural inclination is to try and rearrange the beads, to unstring them and resort—according to size. (This is how I organize my books, not alphabetically or thematically, but by size.) I just want to untie the string and start all over again. Impossible. Between each bead is a knot—securing the position and order of the beads. I can’t untie the knots—the string would break.
Instead I just keep praying. Isn’t that what a rosary is for? Prayer.
Sometimes it is just rote prayer…prayed out of a lifetime of habit. And yet, that is the very purpose of these strings. To help us remember. Slide a bead, say a prayer. Often they enable us to remain in the habit of prayer. Prayer without ceasing.
Lately I have been looking at my rosary closely. I have done this before—too many times to count, but my purpose was to examine to find fault or flaw. I would look at each bead individually. (Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?) Scrutinizing the size, the color, the weight, the shape. The result of this examination would often be dissatisfaction, guilt, pride, self-condemnation, self-flattery, depression, elation. Often just a warped and biased perspective.
This year has changed that perspective. One of my daughters told me she had an epiphany this week. Epiphanies sneak up on you. They catch you unaware. And I have had one of my own.
Every one of my beads is significant. The range of color is astounding—matte black, dull gray, dirty white to deep red, shadowed purple, vivid orange. But it is the combination of these stone beads that creates the interesting and unconventional beauty.
If I follow my natural inclination and see only one bead at a time—all I see are the cracks, flaws, discrepancies, and fault lines. They just seem to be a random jumble. My idea of symmetry and balance is very narrow. But when I look at the whole string, then I see the pattern.
I can’t unstring this rosary of mine. I can’t change the order of the beads. I can’t even change the color or the texture of them. But I can learn to recognize the value and beauty of the string. I can use it to look at myself soberly—and to allow God to change my warped and biased perspective. I can use it to pray. And as I am rolling and rubbing, I can ask God for grace to accept and embrace the order and the symmetry of the stone beads.
I have discovered an incredible truth.
My rosary is a functional, purposeful, and beautiful piece of art.
Maybe you should take another look at your rosary...
Yes, it is beautiful.