Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding Encouragement

FaithBarista_FreshJamBadgeGJoining tonight with Bonnie at Faith Barista and Ann at A Holy Experience.  And because I FINALLY think I've gotten this done in time, with Emily for her wonderful meme "Imperfect Prose." The topic? In what area of my life am I feeling I need more encouragement?  Not sure I'll stay completely on theme, but I'll give it a whirl:


Is It Really About Me Now?
My 5-year-old granddaughter did something scary this year: 
she learned to trust herself enough 
to ride her 'pink and puhple' bicycle 
without any training wheels.
She beamed with well-deserved pride as she sailed down 
the driveway and into the cul-de-sac where she lives.  
She did it! 
Visibly tense, but still determined, she did it

At the tender age of 5, she conquered that niggling, 
wriggling worm of fear and self-doubt 
that can too often gnaw away at us, 
keeping us from trying something new, something scary.
Sometimes that's true because we're afraid we'll fail
that we'll fall down and skin our knees 
or otherwise embarrass ourselves. 

Sometimes it's true because we're really afraid of success 
and how that success might change our lives,
change our image of ourselves, 
change the expectations of others about us.
If I take a running leap off that particular cliff,
and if, by the grace of God and exactly the right wind currents,
I somehow manage to land on my feet,
then what else will I have to do?
How will being successful change how I see myself?
How others see me?
For the last two and a half years, I've been meeting with 
a remarkable man for spiritual direction.  
His name is David and he is trained in depth psychology 
as well as 'missiology,' 
a topic probably more common for Benedictine abbotts.
He works with dreams - I mean, the things you see and experience when you sleep - and it has been the most fascinating, enlightening work 
I've done in a long, long time. 

He, and another trusted counselor, have been gently preparing me for this next, last stage of my life. A stage that could last another 20-25 years,  
given my genetic history,  
but nevetheless - the last stop in a long line  
of different experiences and identities:
church volunteer,
choir member,
Bible teacher,
women's ministry leader,
seminary student,
preaching TA,
associate pastor,
occasional writer,
retired pastor. I am. At this end of that long list,
that long, interesting list of different hats I've tried,
different roles I've played,
different personae I have assumed. 

So the question becomes: who am I now?

What adventure is left for me to leap into?
And will I have the courage to make the leap?

Abbot David has been saying things like this to me  
over the course of these last 2+ years:
"This next phase of your life is about you, Diana." 

Say what?

I am learning that what he means is that in retirement -  
as I move on down the road to crone-dom!! - 
I am no longer bound by the needs of others.  
No children to raise, 
no congregation or institution to satisfy.
Caring for the needs of other people is no longer
at the top of the list for the use of my time and my gifts. 

And to tell you the truth,
this thought is so foreign to my own experience and understanding  
of myself that I find it terrifying

All of my life, I took care of others,  
believing that was what girl children did. 
And all of my life, I tried to be 'big enough' to handle that massive job! By God's grace and a whole lot of therapy, I worked my way through the more neurotic and anxiety-producing parts of that mindset,  
but it still shows up now and again.

An ever-growing part of me believes - and will fight for the rights of other women to believe - that each and every one of us needs to find time and space to care for ourselves - to do the things that nourish and flourish us.
But I admit that there is still a part of me that clings to the strange and partial version of feminity with which I was raised, the part that says,
"You're just being selfish if you pursue your own interests - if you read too much, if you like to make things with your hands, if you want to write your heart out." 

So...I'm trying to learn to do some really serious inner listening, trying to find that place inside of me that is really and truly me.  
The part that was told in the 5th grade that I had a gift for writing, a gift.
The part that was told in the 11th grade that I had a gift  
for spoken communication, a gift.  
The part that was told in seminary that I had a preacher's heart  
and a preacher's voice, a preacher's gift for words.
The part that is literally driving me crazy these days,  restlessly moving me to this keyboard at all hours!  

And this is what Abbott David is trying to say to me, exactly this.  That this is a time to push inward, to find the center, to explore what I've learned and what I've experienced and who I've become over this life of mine. 

I don't know the answer to all the questions yet: Will I be brave enough to take the leap?  Can I set my face like flint and drive down that driveway? Jump off that cliff? Follow that dream? 

What I do know is that I don't make the leap alone.
I have a Savior who holds my hand and says, "Let's do it together.  
That's why I'm here, you know.  
To partner with you as you continue to grow  
into all of who I've designed you to be."  
Maybe I'll get there yet.