A couple of days ago, the daily reflection from CAC (Richard Rohr and crew) included the following:
Parker Palmer, a Quaker teacher and activist whom I deeply trust, reflects on his own “further journey”:
[There are] moments when it is clear—if I have the eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?
That stopped me cold. Parker Palmer put in to words something that has pushed at the edges of my consciousness for forever. I have so often felt that internal struggle where I am trying so hard to live a good, proper, useful life and fit into a vision I have set up while knowing that there is actually another path that calls. Life has gotten more peaceful as I have been able to listen a bit more to the life that wants to live in me.
It’s not easy to let go of those actions and things that make me feel secure. However, those moments where I can look inside and just accept the one who is struggling to be born in me that life starts to emerge. In evangelical terms, I am born again… or maybe I just continue the process of being born again, over and over, little by little.
Not sure how this all fits together. My first reflections this morning were on how to “let go” — I read the readings before mass; I thought of Solomon asking for wisdom and letting go of his own glory. I reflected on Jesus’ words about finding a treasure and selling all to be able to buy the field where the treasure lay. So many ways to let go of what is no longer useful.
I thought about the gospel and how the fishing net collects many things which are sorted later — and what is good and necessary is kept, and the rest thrown away. So many times I’ve not been willing to throw the net and see what is caught before I throw things away. I want to decide ahead of time what I will catch and keep. My judgement first.
As I listened to the choir practice before mass I realized that it was going to be difficult to “go with the flow.” I hear the music at a different tempo than those who lead it at church. I felt called to try to let go of what didn’t really matter, to let go of my own way and try to follow the timing of that other drummer without all the negative stuff. That’s hard.
You see, there is no closure. When I let go of the timing I hear in the music it’s a small death. When I can’t let go of my drummer and fail to enjoy the other drumbeat, it’s a small death. There is no winning or losing. I must accept both. So, I can get closure in either direction.
I can’t say I succeeded. The closing song was sung at a tempo that felt dirge-like to me. It might have been beautiful to others, but it sucked the life and energy out of me. I can say I made a stab at letting go of how I would have led it and in that way I could search for a certain beauty/joy in the way it was sung. Perhaps one day I will be able to appreciate it. Perhaps not. But certainly, it’s not an anger of frustration that deserves to hold on to my life and my spirit. It just is a different approach to the music. And, the music is what calls me and soothes my soul.
I’ll try to focus more on what’s good and important and let the rest of it work itself out.
Wish me luck.
This is going to sound really shallow and self-centered, I fear. I’m going to write it anyway.
We are building a new house. We will be leaving this house that has been home for 31 years. Granted, we are staying in the same town. But, we’ve been on this spot of ground for 31 years — raised 3 children here, survived a fire and rebuilding here, planted blueberry bushes that I will truly miss here.
This morning in mass I had a flash of Holy Week and Easter and it was captured in this whole house business. How’s that? It’s all about the excitement of new and the future rather like Palm Sunday. That’s followed by the Holy Week walk where one realizes that to get to that new, shiny, happy place, there is all kinds of dying that’s going to have to happen. All kinds of things to let go of. There’s the realization that some old friends just won’t make the transition successfully. Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied knowing Jesus and the disciples just couldn’t stay awake all night with Jesus as he prayed his way through these realizations. There’s the moment when it looks like there is no hope — Jesus has died on the cross, after all, and what’s it all for? Then, there is the new beginning when Mary Magdalen discovers that He has risen. Even then, she (and the world) have no real idea of what this new life will be.
I am excited about the new place. It’s larger inside, has a 2 car garage and someone else takes care of the yard. The other homes on the street with the same floor plan feel spacious and comfortable. There will be a zero entry shower which is near and dear to my heart after being in a cast and a boot for over 2 months now and dealing with a wheelchair ( I was a failure at crutches), a knee scooter and a walker. High ceilings, large closets and an open kitchen. So much to look forward to.
But the journey, while nowhere near the struggle of Holy Week has some mild parallels. To get to that new home, I must walk away from this home of 31 years. I will no longer live next door to Mary and Larry. I won’t have dog doors or a fenced yard for Cooper and Grace. If I want blueberry bushes, we have to plant and nurture new ones. The yard will be smaller, the covered back porch will be smaller. We must decide what goes with us and what goes to the curb or gets sold or given away. And, I’m sure there will be moments when I think “What in God’s name was I thinking? How will this work? Will this work?” I don’t let go easily.
Yes — it seems shallow in many ways to even begin to make a comparison. However, I have found that great spiritual and emotional lessons are often learned best in the most common, but concrete experiences. Moving. Just deciding to move. Realizing that it’s time to move.
Yesterday marked 50 years since “Bloody Sunday” — the first attempt by non-violent protesters to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as a part of the march to Montgomery. The behavior of the State Troopers and other local law enforcement is a black mark on the soul of Alabama. It left scars that may never completely heal, both on those who were working for voting rights and those who sought to maintain the status quo.
Today at mass, after communion we heard a lovely, soulful piano rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It is a good thing that my mascara is waterproof. Images filled my head — the juxtaposition of the attitudes and beliefs of various family members clashed with each other and with society.
I grew up in Alabama in the 50’s and 60’s. I am of an age to remember asking about White and Colored water fountains, restrooms and movie theater entrances. I have memories of seeing the news on TV when Bull Connor turned the dogs loose; I remember George Wallace in the door at the University of Alabama. JFL’s assassination and Martin Luther King’s assassination are real life events for me. It was very confusing. Why were the asian and other international families more or less accepted and the black families not? (yes, those families that were sort of accepted were generally scientists employed at TVA); Why would someone shoot a US president or a black Baptist preacher?
In my world, we still stood for Dixie with even more pride that the Star Spangled Banner. The only version of that other song (Battle Hymn of the Republic) that we sang generally had words that were making fun of school or striking out at other things that children like to rail about.I could sing them now and type them out, but they seem so petty and mean at this point in my life. My father held a deep distrust, and maybe even hatred of Catholics. And yet, this morning I was moved to tears as I sat in a Catholic Church listening to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
One song brings memories of another. Past life plays a role in shaping current life. Injuries, like the injustice, fear and just plain meanness at the Edmund Pettus Bridge leave scars. Even when the injuries heal, the scars are often left behind. I’m thinking that is not a bad thing to have to see and accept the scars along with the beauty. It is difficult to accept and forgive my home. Today, as in the past, Alabama shows off her wounds and her meanness and her stupidity (and seems to want to brag about them!). Some days I want to take this state, its people and its government, and just shake it and holler “You are better than this! You know better! Stop it!” But then, I must love her, scars, fear, hatred, love, smiles, Auburn football and all.
A part of my daily routine is to read Richard Rohr’s Reflection that arrives in my inbox each morning. Some days it seems we are on totally different roads. Other days, we are both in a place where it feels like I can sit and listen, share and reflect and grow toward God. Today, was one of the “Aha!” days.
Today, he mentioned the admonition not to “eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” That particular section of Genesis has always bothered me a bit. Why not? Isn’t is good to know good from bad? As I have grown [older] I find it less bothersome. I find that judging what is good and who is evil is a task best left to one with better vision, understanding and compassion than I. Life is much more of a joy if I leave as much of that judgement up to God and simple attempt to love those around me, wherever, however I find them. Maybe not simple, but certainly less oppressing.
The older I get, the more I realize that we all are both saint and sinner, good and evil. I find that the mailman who is deemed to be difficult and disliked by one set of neighbors is the same person who carefully delivered the mail to the door for another neighbor who was weak from chemo as she fought cancer. I find a priest who has caused me great personal anguish and pain through his own anger to be the same person who so often led me to great insight and spiritual growth. I must learn not to just the parts, just try to love the person.
The “Aha!” moment — seeing this “forbidden fruit” as something that will truly cause us more pain and suffering… a sort of warning that doing this, eating of this fruit will not work out so well as we imagine. Of course, like most children, we don’t really believe it until we make the mistake for ourselves, and then it can be hard to let go of it. Trying to be judge and jury and getting trapped brings to mind a story of a friend’s son.
They were at a mall and he kept trying to poke his head through the railing to look down at the level below. His mom instructed him repeatedly “Don’t do that! Don’t put your head through there!” Of, course, as a eight year old boy is wont to do, he did it anyway. And his head got stuck. Panic ensued. Mall security and more was called in to extract him from the railing. The resulting extraction was unpleasant at best.
When he was finally freed, his Mom turned him to face her an asked “Why did you do that? Didn’t you hear me tell you not to? Didn’t you know you weren’t supposed to do that?”
His response: “Yes, you told me. But, I didn’t know it would HURT!”
Ah — how often have I had that same reaction?