I happened across an Epiphany blog post today from Dick Staub, which went by the rather amazing title of Epiphany: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Use words only if necessary. Not only am I late in finding this post for this Epiphany (which was last Sunday), this post was actually from last year’s Epiphany! But given the fact that I recognized a couple of my favorite quotes in that delicious title, I just had to take the time to read it.
I’m really glad I did, and I suspect you will, too. It’s really good well-written. (And full of quotes from some of my favorite authors!)
The crux of his point can be summarized in this one paragraph from his post:
So if I truly want to heed poet Mary Oliver’s advice, “pay attention, be astonished, tell about it,” should not my telling be through the light of Christ within me shining like a star? Should it not be in the living Christ within me revealed in my acts? Should not verbal telling be used sparingly? Did not St. Francis say, “preach the gospel and if necessary, use words?”
As I have wrestled with trying to re-claim my faith over the last couple of years, I have slowly begun to find ways to use words to describe my faith and my journey toward faith, but those words are still halting and incomplete. As one who tends toward loving God via my intellectual understanding (according to Gary Thomas’s Sacred Pathways paradigm for temperaments), I find it frustrating to not have words to be able to express my faith.
And yet, Staub reminds me that the words themselves are not the important thing. The important thing is that I am living out my faith through my daily actions. Despite my struggles with putting words to my faith journey, words still come more easily than transformed living. I do see signs, however, that my actions are shifting even without my conscious effort.
I’ve noted that I have become more generous in recent months, despite the fact that generosity has never come easily to me. I still have a long way to go, but I am seeing movement in an area where I’ve long been stuck.
Some of my recent emphasis on wanting to minimize the amount I purchase and consume (and hold onto!) is directly related to the way that my faith is causing me to have a greater awareness of how much I have compared to so many who are without. I am finding myself looking for ways to give more to help those in need and to help change the systems that perpetuate those who are trapped in poverty.
I’m finding myself judging less and having more compassion (for myself as well as for others). This is still a work in progress as it is a long-standing pattern to break, but I am delighted to notice this shift happening with greater ease than it has in the past.
I’m also noticing how much less likely I am to engage in drama, grudges, pity parties, or gossip. I am learning to be less clingy in my friendships to allow others room to breathe and to have space away from me when they need it. I am learning to set better boundaries (and communicate them!) when they are needed. I am learning to let people in and accept good things, while better protecting myself from bad behavior.
As I’ve considered these things today, I am surprised to find so many areas where I am living in greater alignment with my faith than I have been. But I’ve also noticed that much of this has been unfolding naturally, without a great deal of work on my part. There are still many areas where I could live in ways that better display the light within me.
I’m not ready yet to give up the effort of trying to find words for the faith that I am re-claiming, but I wonder what would happen if I put as much effort into living that faith as I am into describing it. If I’ve already discovered this much shifting without my intentional effort, what might happen if I made it a focus?
I suspect that I will be even more astonished than I am now.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.