Much as I love the season of fall, I am going to miss my mornings on the front porch. I start most summer days there, reading from a book of reflections and writing in my journal. The birds have gotten quieter in recent days. Their babies have exited the nest so perhaps they, like me, can take it a little easier. Every once in a while a hummingbird flits into my space but, lacking anything of interest, flies off again. The soft rustling of the trees and the absence of extraneous noises makes my morning contemplation all the sweeter.
In truth, I used to hate reading reflections like these. Writers who seemed to have all the time in the world to sit in their idyllic settings and wax eloquently about the glories of nature seemed to hold nothing in common with me as I rushed around getting kids off to school and myself to work. Have I turned into one of them? I wish I could say my morning peace lasts throughout the day, but soon enough I am chiseling away at deadlines, snaking through traffic, or sitting through endless conference calls. Nevertheless, I have come to appreciate the front-porch moments in my life wherever and whenever they take place. They bring me in touch with myself and with my connection with the rest of God’s creation. In spiritual jargon, I guess this could be considered “mystical communion”; I just see it as being centered.
I have been immersed of late in a project about virtues. As part of that process, I am scouring the writings of people far wiser than I. What I am uncovering is that virtue is less something we achieve, and more something we live. While the Romans and Greeks associated virtue with heroic accomplishments, biblical writers recognized the giftedness folded into it. In short, we need God’s grace to live virtuous lives. And that entails being ourselves as God’s beloved. The 12th century monk, William of Thierry, put it succinctly: “What is virtue? It is the daughter of reason, but still more of grace.”
Perhaps that’s why my summer mornings have been so precious. I sense the grace in being myself in the midst of God’s overflowing love and the beauty of creation. From there the individual virtues – love, prudence, mercy, kindness, compassion, temperance, hope, faith – flow. The trick is to bring such awareness into the rest of life and then put them into practice. Over the next few months, I’ll be writing more about these and other virtues. Perhaps doing so will help me integrate the front-porch experience a bit more effectively into the rest of my life. Then I will really uncover the grace of virtue.
Read an article about how to shape children in virtue. How can you make this a more intentional practice in your family or with your class?