To celebrate I spent the day with my brother and my almost-16-month-old nephew here in Philadelphia. The day couldn't have been better. In the midst of what have been turbulent and intense days, I spent the majority of Saturday on my kitchen floor, watching as my nephew pulled items out of our convent cabinets and handed them to Daddy (my brother) and I. My nephew is just at the age where he can walk and he is fascinated by doors. Luckily for him (and perhaps no one else), our kitchen cabinets are situated on the ground and are approximately the height of a toddler. Thus, he carefully took one item after another out and brought them to me and then took them back, arranging the cans and bottles as he saw fit, finding each one its particular place. By day's end we had done this for upwards of two to three hours. And the thing is... I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my day.
Reflecting back on the day, I couldn't help but be grateful for the time I have been given here in Philadelphia and the blessing of having the love of little child interjected into it. Watching this little guy go about his work, God pointed out how much I/we have to learn. Become like a child. Let me shower you with love, receive it freely, throw a temper tantrum every once in a while, and be free and trusting and curious.
Most of all though, God said, think of what you want for that child. Think of why and how you love him. I paused. I love him because. And all I really want is for him to become a reflection of my (and so many others') love for him. Bingo.
I'm finding more and more that that is what God really wants of me- to become a reflection of that divine love. In many ways, that is both the easiest and the hardest thing that can be asked of me. The last four month have shown that becoming a reflection of love is hard work. It doesn't always feel good; it means facing realities in the world and in yourself and remaining open to love in the midst of it all. It means being free and trusting like a child, learning with each moment- from what is new and old- and allowing grace in everywhere.
My time in the novitiate so far has been all of that and so much more.
Yet, while four months marks a time of transition, it is a transition within continuity. Despite being outside of canonical time, my focus remains the same; my primary aims are still a deepening of my relationship with God, particularly through a life focused on prayer. In that way, this point in time does not mark an end to what has already begun. Really, I don't think anything could stop what has been begun/ what has been intensified by the last four months. And what that is... I can't exactly put into words yet.
I think perhaps it all (the life that I am living and striving to live) is best captured in a line someone wrote me in a Christmas card this year. Below the image of the star of Bethlehem and a message about finding faith and peace in the season, they simply wrote: "God Bless you on your journey of love!"
When I read that, I stopped for a moment. What would prompt them to write that? I've never used that phrasing to describe what I am doing here and for many that is not the way it appears. Vocational journey? Yes. Career path? Sure. Radical choice? Yeah. But "journey of love"? I cannot honestly say that anyone has called it that thus far.
But, that is exactly what it is.
I am on a journey of love. Love surrounds me and I am being called to simply absorb that love and become a reflection of it for the world to see.
That doesn't change with any transition and isn't bound by the parameters of any splice of time... it is a life-long journey. The novitiate is simply a concentrated time in which to discover that. I am blessed to have it and recognize that really it has only just begun. So here's to transition, here's to becoming reflections of the God who loves us into being, and here's to what, in the midst of chaos, confusion and all manner of other things, can and must be a journey of Love.
For me, this transition will mean two days a week at schools sponsored by our congregation, trying my hand at teaching... or at least as a shadow of a teacher. One experience will place me in an elementary school, most likely a Montessori classroom, and the other will put me in the high school theology classroom where I visited early in my novitiate. The prospect of teaching is exciting and also a little daunting; in all my experiences, I have never taught and, besides my time in youth ministry and volunteer coordination with middle and high school students, I haven't had any extensive exposure to kids in a classroom setting. All I can say is that I'm sure I will have the opportunity to aid our congregational efforts in some way, shape, or form, but I can guarantee that I will learn a lot in the process- let the adventure begin!