Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Cost of Being Here

As summer kicks into full gear and as I look forward to my annual retreat, it seems fitting that I would share my latest reflection from the Global Sisters Report, an article entitled "The Cost of Being Here."  May it meet you where you're at and as these days of rest kick in may you settle into the loving embrace of God.

Only two weeks into my summer vacation, I've hit a snag.

The past few weeks, at the college where I minister, have been full of activity. Like a blur, finals, commencements, dinners, evaluations, graduations, service trips, goodbyes, and planning sessions for the year ahead have come and gone. And after months of going at breakneck speed, I paused to rest . . . and found I couldn't.

Whether you work in a school setting or not, summer offers a welcome respite. As the weather warms, minds wander to thoughts of vacation. And perhaps, if you're lucky, the season brings with it the opportunity for a change of pace and ultimately some rest.

That's what I had hoped for as I waved goodbye to the last student departing after our final week-long service-immersion trip of the semester.

Walking back to my office, I felt the frenetic pace of the semester give way to a feeling of exhaustion. The adrenaline that seemed to have been fueling me dried up, and suddenly all I wanted to do was rest. The frantic pace of life had exacted a certain toll on my body and soul; after a few good nights of sleep, I found myself feeling more refreshed, yet, the deep desire within me to rest felt unfulfilled.

Even though my days were less filled, I still seemed to be rushing around. When I sat to reflect, I felt like my body was still in motion as if I'd stopped after a long day's journey only to discover that the road was moving beneath me.

It seemed my mind was still set in the mode of accomplishing things. Whether I was catching up on reading or going for a walk, the pace I kept was still just as fast as during the semester. And even though it was what I knew I needed, the last thing that I wanted to do was stop.

As a result, I just felt more tired. Finally, I convinced myself to sit longer than I had let myself before. No distractions, no goals, no desire except to stop and be here. I resisted for the first 20 minutes. My mind swore that there were things I could be doing. It darted like a child overtired and hanging on to the last semblance of energy before crashing. I thought about the future, about the things I needed to get done and about the things I'd already forgotten to do.

Finally, the racing stopped and there I was in the quiet. Why is just being here so difficult? I wondered. The response to my question came quickly from within: because being here is costly.

Taken aback, I stayed with that response. What was the cost of being here in this moment?

Being here meant that I wasn't somewhere else. To my mind programmed by the semester to keep on going that seemed like a pretty steep price. The cost of being here is the loss of the opportunity to be somewhere else. It's a forfeiture of the chance "to do" in exchange for the opportunity to actively "be." In many ways, it's a trade-off that doesn't make sense to modern sensibilities. I knew there were messages waiting for me on my phone; that for all the times I'd said I needed a break, I had not meant to stop and actively reflect on where I was. I wanted time to mindlessly be and yet, when I got that, it left me feeling unfulfilled.

I knew that feeling well, it sat somewhere near the roots of my call to religious life — that feeling of wanting more, of being unsatisfied, of longing for something deeper.

I must admit, there are moments that that desire is not met, that I find my soul's longing deeply wanting. The question is how do I find rest in those moments?

Feeling my mind scramble for activity as my heart relished being in the here and now, I recognized the cost of being here. It meant denying the desire to be busy for something far less exciting and far more important — rest in God.

That's the kind of rest we as humans struggle with and we as women religious, in particular, are challenged by on a regular basis.

I am not what I do.

A sister I deeply respect once told me never to say no to an opportunity to do more. In order to be here and now, though, you have to be able to make space. You can't be completely given to a ministry (no matter how good or pressing it is); you have to allow for a space to stop and let God speak. In that moment and place, God could very easily bring ministry to the forefront, but it is the act of relinquishing control that is the true cost of being still for a moment.

Our ministry, after all, is not judged by the exhaustion we feel or the rest we don't take; it is measured by the lives we touch. And we are only able to touch lives as far as we are in touch with the One who calls us to service. Without rest, what we do is a wash. Who we are becomes caught up in what we do, not whose we are, in the here and now.

Even as I write this, I recognize the contradiction between my words and actions... Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Subordinate Clauses

Recently, as I was writing, I noticed something repetitive about the phrases I was using. The word "seem" was making frequent appearances in the piece I was composing. The first time I used it, the word provided a good turn of phrase. The second time, it did the same. The third time I took note of its presence and then, by the fifth or sixth use I wondered why I seemed to be qualifying everything I was saying.

A quick glance at the dictionary revealed what I had already internalized.

Seem (sēm/)verb meaning to "give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality." 

A note below the definition said "used to make a statement or description of one's thoughts, feelings, or actions less assertive or forceful." Why was I softening the words I was writing?

I thought about the topic I was covering. It hadn't come easy.  Instead of the natural process of waiting for inspiration to come, I had had to cajole the article from its place deep within me. I knew it would work, but it was a matter of making it come out naturally as if it hadn't been forced to work.  In the end, I was pleased by the results and struck by what it taught me about my creative process.

After weeks of hard work and a busy schedule, the piece I was working on stood as a final hurdle before a true break could come. Whether I was doing so intentionally or not, my writing voice conveyed a sense of doubt and reticence.  I was seeking clarity as much on paper as in my own being.  All I could do to draw forth my truth as I knew it in the moment. Perhaps, that is where the "seem" came from.

Pausing as I wrote, I would pray and wait.  It is in the silence of my heart and being that ideas make themselves manifest.  The time and patience required is the nature of my process.  What comes has the feel of an emerging creation, which I give thanks for whenever I have the privilege of working it out.

Putting the final words on the page, I smiled.  A weight was lifted and I could go forth to rest and relax... to allow the renewal which creation feeds off of.  This doesn't just seem to be the case; it is the case.  In that space, new life can emerge. That new life brings a hope that is so exhilarating that I can't help but give thanks for what has been created and the process of creation.  It is a secret beauty that renews my soul and before I can qualify this process I think of what might come next, reveling in what has been and hoping that these gifts given by God will continue to give abundantly into the future.  That is my hope and so far, it seems to be working.