Leaping into the unknown: is it worth it? Just ask Bilbo Baggins.

During the fifteen years that I was a professional musician I went out on gigs, holding concerts and sometimes doing some public speaking. When my mother died in 2010, I stopped doing that sort of thing. Now, five years later, I’ve decided to dive back in.

It is not without fear and trepidation for I am rusty! While I had my years of experience to fall back on, I wasn’t sure I would remember how to do it. Something once familiar to me had become unknown territory.

Was it worth trying? Yes!

speaking to the women's group of st. rose of limaAn invitation

I was recently invited to speak to a group of women from the nearby parish of St. Rose of Lima in Northborough, MA. They were having their annual communion breakfast at the Juniper Hill Country Club. Ensconced in a lovely upper room with skylights and French doors, we feasted on a sumptuous brunch prepared by the staff which included thick French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham with pineapple, fresh fruit and other delicacies. The women were very welcoming and I felt right at home with them. The staff was just as friendly and helpful as could be.

st rose of lima women's group2 4-19-15

I spoke on a subject near and dear to me: that of stepping out in faith and taking on the risk to live more deeply (see previous post).

Let’s go swimming!

Jonathan Morgan Follow Swimming in Småland, Flickr Creative Commons
Jonathan Morgan Swimming in Småland, Flickr Creative Commons

Using the water analogy of which I am fond, I gently challenged the women to “go swimming,” both in their faith lives and their daily lives (for it is after all, the same life). I talked of how sometimes we find ourselves on the surface of our lives, rather like sitting in a boat on the river. We observe life passing by us; we may even get a lot done while in our boats. But we never go into the water; we never actually get wet.

  • What would it be like if we got out of our boats and dove below the surface, into a deeper part of ourselves?
  • How would our lives change?
  • What would we see and what would we learn about the Spirit of God dwelling within us?
  • How could that deep dive teach us more about who we are and what we have to offer?
  • Are there risks involved?
  • Is it worth those risks?

Leaping into the unknown

from picturespost.blogspot.com
from picturespost.blogspot.com

I asked the women to recall a time when they were coerced by friends to go on the scariest ride in the amusement park. We all murmured and smiled as I described such a ride (in this case, on a water slide). I asked them to imagine how they felt:

  • Were they out of breath by the time they splashed safely into the pool at the end?
  • Were they mad at their friends for making them go?
  • Would they ever try it again?
  • And, what about that strange tingling feeling suggesting that the ride might have been worth it after all?

The wild rides in our lives

I then shared about my wild ride (and that of our family) in caring for and then losing our parents, and dealing with the aftermath of grief. While much of what I held most dear was lost along the way, a new life opened up as well–a life of adventure.

from blogs.nd.edu
from blogs.nd.edu

Come on the journey

I think of Gandalf convincing a timid and skeptical Bilbo to come along on an unexpected journey, with the result being that Bilbo would be transformed. (This wasn’t part of last Sunday’s presentation but I think Bilbo will figure in future presentations; he’s such a great example).

God extended similar invitations to me and like Bilbo I hesitated, but then accepted. Along the way I experienced love, consolation and healing. I discovering courage I didn’t think I had. In the process, my creativity, long dormant, was brought to life again.

This lead to an unexpected confidence which empowered me to take chances, step deeper into the water of my life, and go swimming. All along the way I was held, cared for, comforted and led by a God who loved me beyond reason.

Is it worth it to go swimming?

I believe so. Conditions can be turbulent at times. But in the end, we will grow and be changed.

Always there

Alan 11-01-2009 (Day 3.11) Sky Is Blue And Clear
Alan 11-01-2009 (Day 3.11) Sky Is Blue And Clear

Bilbo was not shielded from the harshness of life and there were losses along the way. It seemed at times that Gandalf abandoned him. Gandalf, however, never forgot.  When most needed, he was there for Bilbo.

We too have our Guide deep within ourselves, bidding us to follow and to be transformed.

You can hear this portion of my presentation here:

I ended my presentation by suggesting that the best way to get started on such a journey was to ask God to teach us how to accept his love. Once we learn to love and be loved, we can do anything.

We all had fun at the end singing this song together:

I enjoy giving talks. It gives me a chance to share the wonderful blessings and lessons I have received through my amazing grief journey.

That’s right, amazing.

New life can emerge even when we are flattened by tough losses and difficult times. We do have some control: we can fight it and say no, or we can say “yes” and go along for the journey. The main thing for me is that I knew I was not alone; I have a Guide who knows me better than I know myself.

So I am glad I decided to go along.

mommy walnut hill yearbookIt seems appropriate to be pondering these things as I note the fifth anniversary of my mom’s passing today (April 22nd). I know I am thankful to have had such a wonderful mother who taught me about trying new things and living life deeply, with zeal, joy and gratitude. Her life, even at the end, prepared me to dive deeper into my own life.

I love it when people say I look and sound like her. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Looking for a speaker?

If you’re looking for a lively speaker who loves to share and can lead a great sing-a-long, look me up. Write me at susanwbailey@gmail.com and let’s talk.

This is what I am like when I speak:

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“Late have I loved you …” St. Augustine’s dive below the surface

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

from The Confessions of Saint Augustine

This prayer of St. Augustine reminded me that it’s not enough to ride on the surface of life.

It’s like how I feel when I go kayaking. I take in the scenery, enjoy the splashing of the water as I paddle, and drag my hand through the water to cool off. I always have such a sense of well-being when I go kayaking.

It’s all wonderful but I realize I am just an observer.

640 stream

What if I became more a part of things?

Surrounded by the warm, clear water and subjected to the heat of the sun, the urge to go swimming takes over and I jump in. All those wonderful feelings of peace and contentment are magnified when I immerse myself in the cool water.

It takes some effort to enter the water. Maybe it will be cold. Painfully cold. I won’t know what the bottom will feel like. Will it be squishy with plants and mud? Will there be rocks to hurt my feet? Maybe a fish will bite my toes!

I can’t see all the way to the bottom so I have to go on faith.

Jonathan Morgan Follow Swimming in Småland, Flickr Creative Commons
Jonathan Morgan Follow Swimming in Småland, Flickr Creative Commons

Is it worth the effort? I think so. It’s always worth it in the end.

Deciding to go below the surface in our lives is a risk too.

We have no idea what we will find. We have to trust in Something beyond ourselves leading us into the unknown.

Lawrence OP Follow St Augustine
Lawrence OP
St Augustine, Flickr Creative Commons

For St. Augustine, going beneath the surface of his life turned out to be a life-changing experience. He finally heard the invitation. And it was so compelling that he took the risk and dove in.

We can gather from the words of his prayer that it was well worth the risk. It was the first of many dives into a wonderful unknown for this saint.

Are you being invited?

Perhaps this is the invitation you are hearing this Lent, to stop being a bystander and become part of the action. We can sit in our boats and ride on the surface or we can take a chance on jumping into the water.

St. Augustine makes it sound quite inviting to me. How about you?

Here’s a beautiful song by the St. Louis Jesuits based on the prayer of St. Augustine: