I’ve spent the weekend reading theology books of various kinds. Some were academically oriented books that went right over my head. Others were written for the rest of us (without formal theological training) that I could understand.
Some of what I read I found myself agreeing with. Some made me uncomfortable because it stretched me in areas where I’d rather stay within in my comfort zone. Some (not much) I just flat-out disagreed with. And some I couldn’t even pretend to understand.
I’ve been slowly savoring Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives over the last few weeks. I’m reading it in parallel with Richard J. Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity because the two ideas (Sabbath and simplicity) seem to be intertwined for me right now. Both desires stem (for me) from a longing for stillness and peace in a busy world.
As I’ve read through this book about Sabbath and am reminded of the gifts that it brings, I have found myself considering ways to create a real Sabbath as an intentional practice in my own life—not just an occasional break, but a committed practice to take a day off every week from my usual chores and busy work and to-do lists to settle into spacious time for rest and renewal.
I know from life coaching just how powerful questions can be. The right question from a coach is often key to a client discovering their own answer to a situation by creating the space for the client to see the situation from a different angle in some way. When I went through my coaching training, we studied the art of powerful questions and practiced them on each other in coaching practicums. The idea of how important questions can be is not new news to me.
And yet, someone asked me a question last week—simply out of curiosity, without any aims at changing my life in any way—and I’ve been floored by the fact that I cannot get this question and the implications of my answer out of my mind.
I’ve always been fascinated by the stories friends tell of the odd food cravings they got while pregnant. These cravings may be for things that they normally don’t enjoy or for unusual food pairings (like pickles and ice cream) or even for things that they would not normally considering eating (like the story I heard of someone craving dirt while pregnant).
I am fascinated by the stories partly because I have never been pregnant, so I have never experienced such cravings. But I am also fascinated by the specificity of the cravings these friends report. I am well familiar with that sharp edge of craving, but my cravings are too amorphous to identify and name. I hear these stories of specific craving with a bit of envy, wondering what it would be like to know with such certainty what it was that I desired.
“There is a divine restlessness in the human heart. Though our bodies maintain an outer stability and consistency, the heart is an eternal nomad. No circle of belonging can ever contain all the longings of the human heart.” ~John O’Donohue
I know this longing and this restlessness well. I have often described myself as a seeker because it seems like I have never found any religion, philosophy, or worldview that has been able to address this longing of my heart in a way that makes sense. I am always looking further to find answers.
Part of any process of transformation is letting go of pieces of who we have been in order to make room to grow into who we are becoming. They challenge so often is that it is necessary to let go of who we were before we have clarity about who it is we are becoming. At least, that is the way it works for me.
It is easy to say that I want to become more authentically me, but it often feels like “me” is more of a committee than a single identity. My strengths and my weaknesses, my light and my shadow, all my dreams and interests and patterns and wounds and talents all mixed up together competing for the ability to direct my life. As I let go of the pieces of me that are no longer serving me, I find myself making choices among all of these competing voices to determine who it is that I will become.
“What you are afraid to do is a clear indicator of what you need to do next.” ~Anonymous (from @Intentdotcom)
I had a short conversation with a friend today on Facebook about why the thing we want to do most is so often the thing that we are most afraid to do. Although our exchange was very brief, the thought has stuck with me all day as I have pondered the ways I repeatedly avoid doing the thing I most long to do … the thing that is very much on my mind after a different Facebook friend asked me last night exactly what I’m doing about this one thing.
I always have some justification for why this is not the best time for me to do that one thing, and my justifications usually sound quite logical. Very practical and reasonable even! The truth is that I’m just scared. Terrified, really.
What if I do this thing that I long to do, and I fail at it? The very thought takes my breath away. It’s easier to just not try than to think of failing at what matters most! But I’ll never get an A for adventure if I stay on the safe, practical, reasonable path. (And incidentally I’ll just note that my “one thing” was very much on my mind as I wrote yesterday’s post too.)
“Do not rely completely on any other human being, however dear. We meet all life’s greatest tests alone.” ~Agnes Macphail
From my very earliest memories, I have craved connection with other people. I have always dreamed of being part of a community or network of people who would give me the sense that there was somewhere I belonged. In particular, I have searched high and low to find a few people who could be that core group of “chosen family” that I could rely on through thick and thin. I have desperately longed for someone with whom to intimately share my life.
“You don’t go through a deep personal transformation without some kind of a dark night of the soul.” ~Sam Keen
In my experience, deep personal transformation like this journey through the chrysalis I am on cannot occur without provoking a dark night of the soul experience, but I also think that any dark night of the soul experience will also trigger deep personal transformation. I suspect we never find out without the other.
I think this is because the loneliness and desolation of the dark night of the soul experience is what opens our minds and hearts to the unresolved sorrows and fears and hidden longings that we have tucked into our shadows, and it is this opening to a more complete experience of our full reality from which we’ve tried to hide that makes transformation possible. This is part of what makes deep personal transformation so uncomfortable (for ourselves and for those around us); it is also what makes it so freeing as we stop carrying around the weight of the unexperienced and unresolved traumas from our past.
A friend of mine posted a YouTube video of a song called Don’t Tell Me Who to Love by Ray Boltz on her Facebook page a couple of days ago. I remember Ray Boltz from my days of listening only to Christian music (some 25 years ago now). That was back in my more fundamentalist Christian days that now leave a sour taste in my mouth, so I almost didn’t watch it.
I’m glad I did. In fact, he has an even better video for this song posted on his blog (http://rayboltzblog.wordpress.com/) where you can download this song for free. But the song and both of the videos are strongly supportive of the LGBT community and of same-sex marriage—something I would not have expected from anyone I associate with that scene.