Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for. – Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
Te estas saliendo del huacal he said.
Whatever you want to call it —
stripping bark from myself, says Alice Walker
learning joy from dogs without collars, says Lauralee Summers
this is what it means to be free:
I’m on a mountaintop, and
there’s no railing, but
I choose this view
of the ground.
Strip everything down to essence.
Let go of what you think you need.
Learn to trust what is.
Embrace happiness without grasping.
Happiness will break your bones as it slips out of your clenched fist.
Trust sorrow; It allows the soul to lie fallow and expand.
Embrace the daylight without demanding permanence.
Light fades into evening with or without your approval.
Trust darkness; It faithfully reveals the unseen.
Embrace tranquility without insisting on its presence.
Tranquility is a condition and not a promise.
Trust anger; It acknowledges the truth of your experience.
Embrace relationship without needing to control.
Relationship is a dance of constant movement and change.
Trust solitude; It is a centering space always available to you.
Understanding what is yours, release your grip.
Trust what is true to hold you up.
I grew up like an international nomad (a story for another day), and have never developed a strong sense of rootedness or belonging in any particular community. I’ve lived in East Africa, Ecuador, South Korea, China and of course the US. When I was getting settled into my current home of Washington, D.C., I worked at the International Language Institute, an academic English program for professional adult students. The students came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were from affluent families in the Middle East and others were refugees from war-torn countries. I had moved to D.C. hoping for a job in International Relations or International Development, and in a way, that is exactly what I found – but it didn’t look a thing like I had expected. It wasn’t broad or universal; in fact, the closer I got to the heart of it, the more specific and local my relationships and work became.
Ironically, exposure to multiple international communities has taught me that genuine development, progress, and healing are always personal and local. There is no such thing as international relations, because a relationship by nature is specific. Wherever you are, what matters is how you treat the people in front of you.
My craving for place and belonging teaches me this lesson again and again: My healing comes in the specific, not the abstract. It comes through the broken reality I inhabit right now, and not in a distant place, past or future. However international, however broad one’s experience, the truth is that healing and growth always occur in immediate moments, relationships, and places. I no longer seek the grand and universal; instead, I pursue the fullness of small and quiet moments, the life-shaping, daily, utterly unique and yet ordinary moments that teach me to be where I am.
Wind-swept clean, the pale empty sky
burns against an army of brittle pines. Nowhere
is as hungry as this raw desolation. Stark,
even the light turns inward, turns to patient
silent shadows, pilgrims of the unknown.
The hope and despair of the woods, the wind, the longsuffering shadows
echo in the skylark’s cry – “We are waiting. We are hungry.”
Today reminds me of you: the way your hands look
and your eyes burn.
Many of us strive to be faithful to God, to live lives of coherence and responsibility. Why, when all appears as it should, are we sometimes plagued by a sense of falseness, of faithlessness? Where does this come from?
I find that faithlessness to God begins when we are faithless to ourselves – when we misuse our time and energies, when we live out of anything less than integrity. We are faithless to ourselves in many ways: we cheat ourselves when we hide behind fear and procrastination, we abandon ourselves by allowing others to speak for us, we are faithless when we allow fear to drive us, acting out of insecurity rather than belovedness.
Outwardly all may be well. We may be the only person who recognizes that something is off. But if we’re paying attention, we will know. When we are faithless, we lose our clarity and sully our senses; though God’s spirit dwells in us, we cannot hear the spirit; though we know our surroundings, we cannot find the way.
Here is a mystery: being present with God requires being present with oneself. Integrity is indivisible. Knowing God, I must know myself.