We all have fears, anxieties, insecurities. Most of us are scared to death of being alone. We all get angry, or sad, or confused. Simply put, we're all human, and that shared experience is worth remembering at all times, because when we forget it, that's when we go wrong. That's when we miss each other, stop listening, and resort to hurting each other deeply, violently, or maliciously.
My life since moving to Vancouver has been a whirlwind of emotion, fantasy, grief, sadness, loneliness, stress, expectation, assumption, and probably a few more words that all sum up to my feeling a bit crazy and not like myself at all. I'm drawn to the dramatic, the fraught. I've recognized lately just how tight I hold my shoulders and how often my fists are clenched. In that moment where I make a conscious effort to drop my shoulders and release my fingers, I breathe. It's not a loud breath, but I can hear it inside myself. So you can imagine how fitting I found Rumi's words to be this morning. Open. Closed. Tight. Relaxed.
SOMETIMES I THINK IT IS MY MISSION TO BRING FAITH TO THE FAITHLESS, AND DOUBT TO THE FAITHFUL ― PAUL TILLICH
Rambling. I do it when I feel vulnerable. Doubt makes me feel vulnerable. I like people to think I have my shit together, that I know something about something. I like to feel competent and trustworthy. But in the world of chaplaincy, of caring for the spirit in the throes of crisis and loss, it would seem my doubt and disbelief are gifts. It isn't that I disbelieve in a *fill in the blank with a typical, evangelical Christian adjective* God. It's that I don't mind questions. I hate not knowing, but I don't mind the questions that come out of the not knowing.
I realized just how much of my life I've spent waiting for the future only to deprive myself of the present. I'm almost always in my head, thinking about something, longing for something. The struggle to rest in the present moment is a persistent and pervasive one for me, and for so many of us. We have to think 2 hours, 8 hours, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years ahead. Now doesn't exist... unless we will it so.
...if you were to ask me, "Where do you see God working in your life," I might be able to answer you. I might be able to tell you that I've felt God's presence in such and such event, in this conversation or in that encounter. The other day, I started a sentence with, "I felt the Spirit," and I nearly had to stop myself from stopping myself. I don't cringe at words like "salvation" or "God's will" like I did for a while there. Perhaps most importantly, my response to the inquiry of "How are you and God" would be, "We're good. We're okay."
LETTING GO GIVES US FREEDOM, AND FREEDOM IS THE ONLY CONDITION FOR HAPPINESS. IF, IN OUR HEART, WE STILL CLING TO ANYTHING - ANGER, ANXIETY, OR POSSESSIONS - WE CANNOT BE FREE. ― THÍCH NHẤT HẠNH
"What would happen if you strangled God?" Bob asked me. I sat there as a variety of expressions came across my face, several of which caused Bob to chuckle. Then, I had what may be one of my nerdiest epiphanies ever.
Next time you notice yourself waiting, in whatever form it takes place, pay close attention to yourself, your feelings, your breath, and your body. Take note of your thoughts and what effect they have on you. Think about your support system: how are the people you love and who love you waiting alongside you? What strength do they offer, and what gifts do you give in return? Here's the thing: waiting is a universal experience.
It feels weird to have made a decision, to have my future more planned out than I imagined it would be this early in the game. Yet at the same time, I am truly excited for the possibilities this adventure has in store. I am thrilled to be settling into my newfound love for professional chaplaincy, even if I don't fully know what that means for me. Day after day, I seem to receive signs (or at least nods from the universe) that this is my path, my passion, my calling, and my identity.
The fact is that to know yourself and to let your self be known by others is a gut-wrenching, vulnerable, nerve-wracking process. It often includes tension, drama, and conflict (all three of which I despise greatly). But rarely does this conflict come up, I think, because we inherently dislike or detest someone else. It surfaces because we see something in them that makes us feel something about ourselves. Yet when we refuse to be vulnerable, to "risk engagement," we put ourselves at risk for emotional atrophying and decay.
We all have grief, but sadly we live in a culture that is terribly grief-avoidant. We don't talk about death until it happens, and when it does, we try to get the conversation over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. We find the lingering grief of someone who has suffered a terrible loss awkward, and instead of sitting with that person, risking the upsurge of our own pain and past, we respond out of anxiety and fear, forcing them into a painful fortress of solitude, left to face their grief alone.