Note: My spiritual journal still resides here but I will also be publishing each post on the blog as well.
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MARCH 30, 2016–Today’s readings put forth a common theme–that we need each other. I loved the line from the meditation found at The Word Among Us website:
“There’s something about opening ourselves to other people that makes us more open to the Lord’s presence and his comfort.”
The meditation cites the examples of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, pouring themselves out to Jesus even though they did not recognize him. What they did recognize was his openness to their plight. He was willing to listen.
It also discusses the reading from Acts where Peter and John “give what they have” to the lame beggar–the healing power of Christ.
The meditation concludes with the idea that we most often find God in one another.
Such discovery requires trust. I have to go out on a limb based upon my initial feelings about someone, and trust that they want to hear what I have to say.
It makes me think about the vibe I give out–does my face convey openness, or am I annoyed that you are bothering me? Am I sitting still and being attentive or am I fidgeting? Is my mind focused on you or pushing in the future, waiting for you to leave?
It’s not easy to trust. It’s a lot easier on my part to think that my problem is so “special” that no one will understand it and so I keep it to myself. That’s a form of pride. There is no problem that is unique to one individual. At least one other person in the world has been through my problems. If I go out on a limb and confide in another, will I find God waiting there to listen?
I created a video for this post with a musical backdrop and images to inspire you. You can read the text below:
Recently I wrote a post about dealing with the noise, busyness and general chaos of the Christmas season. Our involvement in the many worthwhile activities of decorating, cooking, entertaining, party-hopping, buying and wrapping gifts, sending cards, volunteering our time and treasure to charities, and spending time with our families can make our heads spin. I proposed that a renewed focus on the season of Advent, with its call to simplicity and quiet, would make a wonderful antidote.
A reader responded with an unexpected comment: “I have the opposite problem. I would love a bit of noise and chaos at Christmas.” Jay described her situation of caring for a homebound mother and a disabled husband, with other family members living too far away to visit. Suddenly my assumption that a quiet Christmas was best for everyone felt arbitrary. “Quiet” can assume many forms, including loneliness and isolation.
I immediately wrote back to Jay, attempting to offer some consolation; I wanted to do something to mitigate her circumstance. In the writing I realized that I too understood the ramifications of a Christmas “gone quiet.” My own family circle has grown noticeably smaller over the years with my parents gone and my sister, brother-in-law and nephews scattered across the country. Although the circumstances were different, Jay and I ended up sharing a common problem.
Jay responded to my letter, opening up about her situation. Because of her husband’s disability, it is nearly impossible for them to visit friends. In fact, in order to see her mother on Christmas day, she has to leave him behind. She waxed nostalgic on the past, writing, “we had such a lovely time with the cousins and aunts and uncles when I was a child, and when we lived closer by.” She wrote of longing to help others, of getting a tree only to leave it unadorned and of the futility of buying gifts when no one really needed anything. She gently berated herself in her longing for Christmases past full of Santa Claus, gifts and overeating; as a teacher in the Methodist church she is keenly aware of the true meaning of the day.
However, as we continued to write back and forth, I noticed her mood quickly shifting from laments to gratitude. Jay began recounting her blessings, most notably the love she has for her husband and mother. I could feel the warmth of that love coming across the Atlantic from her home in Ipswich, England to mine in North Grafton, Massachusetts. It was then that I began to understand the power behind listening.
I had entered into the correspondence assuming my usual role of problem solver; I was going to make everything better! It soon became clear however that I was meant to be a friend; to listen to and acknowledge another person’s life story. It was not about me solving a problem and looking like a hero; it was about Jay needing someone to be fully present, listening with mind and heart. Paying attention to her life rather than mine required humility.
Yet, once I surrendered to the idea, I could see God’s grace unfolding. The focus of our letters changed from melancholic remembrances to gratitude for the blessings we both enjoy. Gratitude fueled action with Jay vowing to get into the spirit by attending a couple of get-together lunches and taking in a local concert of carols presented by her town’s brass band. I, in turn, volunteered to join a band of Christmas carolers in our parish, and inquired about taking communion to nursing home residents. Jay and I are exchanging gifts through the mail. Listening has turned strangers into friends.
Our correspondences caused me to examine myself: why do I insist on giving people what I would not want for myself? When I share my heart with someone, I don’t want judgment or unsolicited advice or easy answers. Many problems cannot be solved but rather, must be endured. I just want a sympathetic ear. Doesn’t it make sense then that sometimes my family and friends, neighbors and even strangers just want someone to accept where they are at that very moment and sit close by, saying nothing?
I experienced this recently as another friend shared with me the pain of watching her best friend slip away behind the fog of dementia. I empathized, recalling my mother’s mental deterioration and personality change, but decided that it was best just to let her talk. We ended our conversation in silence, looking at each other with misty eyes.
Jay taught me how to do that.
If I were to sit on Santa’s knee, I would say: “St. Nicholas, please ask the Lord to help me grow in grace as a good listener.”
For listening is one of the most precious gifts we can give to each other.
Note: It turns out Jay and I have something else in common–Foster Dad John’s Critter Room!
Eighteen months ago I started Be As One with the idea of chronicling my life in my attempt to pull all the various pieces together and live as a whole and integrated person. It has occurred to me that I used a flawed approach. As a result what I see is a random collection of posts about things I am interested in but that are not connected to each other in any obvious way.
I am wondering if you see that too.
I thought I was doing the work by sharing these various posts but in fact I was asking you to do the work:
I expected you to know what was going on in my head.
I expected you to do the work of connecting all these random pieces together.
I expected you to put aside what you care about in deference to what I care about.
In the end, I have a blog that may not be terribly hospitable to you.
If I want to demonstrate living life in a single flow rather than in a bunch of fragments or compartments, then I need to show connections.
Connections between the civilized world and the natural world
Connections between the earth below and heaven above
Connections to what is outside of us and what is inside of us
For me, this post was an eye-opener about the necessity of stepping outside of myself and writing about what I see around me. Writing about you. Making you feel welcome in my little corner of the virtual world. Considering things that both you and I feel are important.
I won’t hit the mark every time, I am sure. I hope you will let me know when I have hit it or not. This blog has been evolving and will continue to evolve. But I want you to know that I will consider you every time I write a post. This will no longer be a dumping ground for things that concern just me.
I’ve changed my tag line from “Living life in a single flow …” to “It’s all about connections.” Because it is! We are not meant to live as little islands; we are created to be social beings. This, coming from a notorious introvert who jealously guards her solitude. But I understand the need to stay connected even as I pursue my solitary interests.
People are important. You are important. Be As One will no longer just be about me. It will be about you, too.