Fair warning: This will probably end up being a rambling, semi-coherent, self-involved post. Just so you know. 🙂
For about a year now, I’ve been engaged in the process of discernment. Most often, when you hear an Episcopalian say this, the assumption is that they are looking at a possible call to ordained ministry. Well, I don’t want to say that I am looking at a possible call to ordained minnistry, but at the same time, I can’t say that I’m not. After all, we know God to have a sense of humor, along with a definite appreciation for irony. Mostly, though, I found that as the months of great upheaval were giving way to stability and calm, I had a definite need to stop, look, and listen. I needed to look at where I’d been and think about where I was headed. I needed to find quiet, so that I could listen for the whispers of God’s voice. And I want to grow into the person God wants me to be, to walk on the path God places before my feet.
A lot has happened in the last year. I’ve become involved in more ministries within my parish home, being invited to take turns with other parishioners in leading a lectionary-based discussion group, and even accepting a leadership role in our Christian Formation Commission. I’ve continued to take communion to our sick and shut in members, and am serving in other ways at worship. I’ve become a postulant of a religious community, and have found great richness, love, and learning among our postulant class. I even ran for vestry!
That was an interesting bit. Our vestry election was in January, at the annual meeting of our parish, and our rector had each of us candidates stand in front of the congregation, introduce ourselves and share one ministry of the parish that particularly excites and interests us. I had no idea what to say, so when the words came out of my mouth, I was completely surprised: I’m warriormare, and I’m very passionate about healing, at all levels: personal, individual healing, and healing within families, all the way up to racial and institutional healing. This is completely true, of course, and it resonates along more pathways than I’d realized as I listened to these words that were being spoken in my own voice.
See, I’m passionate about healing for the broken places within ourselves, the places we hide and cover up, the places we’re ashamed to bring into the Light. But, of course, the Light is the only thing that can help us to heal those places.
I’m passionate about healing for families. It is so easy to do damage to each other, and all the easier when we share a home and a life. We take each other for granted, we say things to our family members that we would never say to a stranger, and yet we expect our family to always be there for us. The same broken places that exist within each one of us, hidden away from the Light, exist in fractures and splinters within families, too. But where a family generally ignores that these patterns of brokenness exist, they are immediately obvious to an outsider. We have to bring those splinters and fractures to the Light, so that we can heal within our family as well.
I’m passionate about healing throughout the Church — and not just throughout my parish or the diocese where I live or The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, but throughout the whole body of Christendom. Jesus told us that we are the members – the arms and legs and fingers and toes – of his own body, and, well, I have to say that we make up one pretty pathetic and broken body. Of course, each of us want to be the fun, exciting parts of Christ’s body. Nobody really wants to be the armpit of Jesus, not to mention the rectum, and what is so interesting about being Christ’s left ulna?
I’m passionate about healing within my city, my state, my country. I’m passionate about healing among nations, about healing among peoples who are divided artificially by color or gender or class. I’m passionate about healing within the earth, which has been placed in our hands for protection and safekeeping, which sustains us and feeds us and houses us. And if we are ever so fortunate as to discover beings like us on another world, well, I’m sure we’ll need healing in the relationships between us and them, too!
The thing is, all those big things, I don’t know how much difference I can make. I try to shine the light, from my own little corner of the world, in my own small ways. I try to be responsible about recycling, to be considerate and kind to everyone I encounter, to extend love to my family members. I try to take care of my body, to feed my mind, to tend lovingly to my soul.
So over the last year, I’ve continued to try things, to find the things that feed and uphold me, to listen for God’s voice, particularly coming from the mouths of those I love and trust. A handful of revelations have gone from misty fuzziness to fairly sharp clarity, and there’s still plenty of indistinct stuff out there in the mist.
I have always felt a special pull toward those who have been damaged by The Church. This may be the most difficult healing work that God can call us to, engaging with those who reject God because of the behavior of some of God’s other children. Our faith resides in very deep places, so when we find pain or anger or fear in those places, this affects every part of us. It is true that some years ago, I spent time as a practicing neo-pagan, believing specifically that the Greek goddess Athena was my patroness. My faith in her warrior wisdom helped me to survive a particularly savage depression… and yet, I found that I had to return to my beloved Church, to the Trinity that so baffles and delights me, to the dance of love with God. But in that time, I was greatly blessed by being able to witness The Church through the eyes of an outsider, and I’ll tell you that what I saw was not pretty. I believe it was G.K. Chesterton who famously said it’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but that Christianity has never truly been tried. It is my prayer that in time, God will gather all of God’s children to Godself, and that those of us here in this world who misunderstood will finally get to see ourselves through God’s perfectly-loving and infinitely-forgiving eyes.
More recently, I’ve observed a strong pull toward those who are new to our parish. Many are young adults who attended church with their parents when they were children, but who began to walk apart when they were teenagers, as so many of us do. But now, as they begin to consider children or even begin having children, these folks find that they are missing that special, magical mystery that their parents shared with them. Worship speaks to those very deep parts of us, those places where we need to feel cared for and loved, those places where music and candlelight live, those places that can understand the realm of symbol and don’t always have to live in the world of rational and logical thought. I’m not sure yet just what this inclination means, but I believe that it is holy and good, and I’m doing my best to discover what God is calling me to with this pull.
And I think that both of these places are fertile ground for healing. See, the healing of God does not always mean that we are cured, that we are restored to the state of being we were in before illness or dis-ease entered the picture. Healing can — and does! — take place in body, mind, heart, spirit, soul. Healing can mean the acceptance of something that terrifies and angers us, the forgiveness of an old grievance that has eaten us away like a cancer, or the commitment to a discipline of tending to ourselves as lovingly as we might tend to others. Healing begins when we can allowthe Light to shine on those hidden, broken places within ourselves. We may only be able to open the shutters the barest crack at first, because we’re afraid of what lies behind them, but even the tiniest sliver of the Light of God can begin the work of healing within us.
I know that there is a lot more here for me to discover, to bring to light within myself. What do these senses of call mean for me? How can I live them out within my parish community, within my city or workplace or online communities, even within the wider Church? I keep returning to prayer, and I know that I’m past due for a weekend retreat; I need to find a place of peace and of beauty where I can be still and know that God is God.