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Posts tagged ‘Rumi’

Enough

“Will life always be this way?” I found myself lamenting to Lyle the other day. I’ve been off work now for 6 months, and I often wonder about the future. While I continue to be grateful for the time and space to heal, worry can kick in when I strain to understand what lies ahead. What will life look like in another 6 months? In a year? The image from my last blogpost of waiting inside a chrysalis continues to be an apt one, and it is not easy to rest, holding on for God’s good timing!

One of my life’s dreams is that someday I might write a book, perhaps in my favorite genre of memoir. Is this God’s dream for me? My dad has often told the story of his grandmother, my great-grandmother, whose husband built a writing shed behind the house in Russia because she wanted to write a book. It’s the only detail I know about this woman, besides the fact that she died young and never did write that book. It’s an amazing story, especially for the late 19th century, and with hope I wonder if I’m meant to follow in her footsteps.

It’s not a bad dream. I’ve loved writing since I was in grade 2 and my friends, not to mention my parents, have always encouraged it in me. We all have mercies in our lives that bring out the “better angels” within, and for me, it’s writing.

"Brevity" cartoon used with permission. www.gocomics.com/brevity

“Brevity” cartoon used with permission. http://www.gocomics.com/brevity

But when I thought of “The Book” last week, it was surrounded by my worries for the future. It felt like I was grabbing onto something, anything, that could get me out of the waiting game. I recognized that I wanted it to puff me up with significance, unlike these days of uncertainty. Pride is a sin that comes up regularly for me and here it was again. “Lydia Penner: Most humble woman of the century” would be the ironic author bi-line.

It was into this quagmire of unease that I heard a distinct Word, countering my dreams of grandeur. Like the tiny rudder steering a large ship, a small thought came to me that changed my direction: “Isn’t it enough just to be God’s child?”

It was like a load lifted off my shoulders. I was reminded how often I long for significance, and like the master planner I’m not, try to bring it about in some way. It’s almost like I was born with a sign that said, “Notice me!” This clamoring effort never brings about the results I crave, in fact, like all addictions, my attention-getting leaves me wanting more. Beneath the pride of my “Notice me” sign is a deep fear that I am worthless and unloved. How quickly I try to fill my own bucket.

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had lately is how even my headaches have been connected to this fear. As I’ve begun to release my people-pleasing agenda and rest in solitude, the effect on my headaches has been better than any medication or therapy I’ve ever tried.

The poet Rumi says that “Someone fills the cup in front of us,” and I know that Someone isn’t me. Remembering I was loved brought rest from my clamoring need to be important in the world’s eyes. I remembered that God loves us even when we are not achieving.

It’s the same with my son Joel. I’m proud of the accomplishments he’s making in the world, but there’s truly nothing he can do to make me love him more. In the same way, God loves us in all our ups and downs, whether we are humming with productivity, frustrated with failure, or stumbling in the whole spectrum between.

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Photo by Paul Patterson

Maybe someday I’ll write that book, but in the meantime I desire to sink ever more deeply into the knowledge that I’m loved, not because I’ve earned it, but because God loved me into being. This knowledge is enough for me, a treasure beyond compare.

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” Romans 8:38-39 Common English Bible (CEB)

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Rising and Falling

I have made a new friend this summer. Ok, I haven’t actually met her in person, but she has been open, honest and wise with me, sharing lessons from a difficult life. She is writer Kathleen Norris, author of Acedia and Me which I began to review in an earlier blogpost.

In pondering the theme of my next blogpost, a phrase from her book has stayed with me in recent days. She quotes a desert monk from the 3rd century who told his disciple,

Brother, the monastic life is this: I rise up, and I fall down, I rise up and I all down. I rise up and I fall down.

This quote reflects one of the lessons I am learning this summer. Those who know me know that I am prone to perfectionism. This tendency to need to get everything right has given me (and no doubt others) much grief in life. People frequently tell me that I’m too hard on myself, something I know all too well, but I catch myself at it all the time. Like an addiction, I don’t know how not to do it without a Higher Power. How do I give up trying to get it right, and the larger problem behind it of wanting to be seen as a “good person”?

Norris’ book has reminded me that I’m not alone in my struggles. She writes of facing many struggles: her husband’s illness and death, and her own tendency towards depression and perfectionism. She has reminded me that the true failure is not in having struggles common to everyone. The real failure is forgetting that God is with us amid them.

321e4bbc08c97370010f78258e54e998This summer, I’ve had to do a bit of climbing out of what John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress calls the “slough of despond”. With health and emotional issues in the spring, I felt I’d lost the battle to “get it right” as grouchiness and a sense of despair gripped me, and was left with a sense of underlying depression. As I’ve sat with it in prayer, in talking with friends and in my reading, I’ve realized God has been speaking to me in my time of perceived failure, reminding me that like the old childhood game of Ring Around the Rosie says, “we all fall down”, and that, by God’s incredible mercy, we all rise up as well. The monastic life is this: I rise up, and I fall down.

You might be thinking this is pretty obvious, and I agree. The teaching is not new to me, but in the application of it, I think I am a total beginner. The question is, have I accepted God’s love of me as I am, warts and all? As the new school year approaches, can I learn to live in whatever each moment has for me, whether rising or falling, and learn contentment? I feel a stirring of hope in me lately that God is digging these lessons more deeply. And as the 13th century poet and mystic Rumi wrote, the invitation never ends:

“Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times
It doesn’t matter
Come, come yet again, come”

Back in early May, Lyle and I went to Minneapolis for a weekend. We had a great time, but the congested cold I had combined with an airplane ride left me with stuffed ears, a condition called barotrauma. It’s been 13 weeks, and while it is slowly healing, I am still living with this weird symptom.

As I’ve been considering the lessons God is teaching me, I have to confess that my inner ears have been

plugged as well. God was speaking all along but I was so caught up with falling that I didn’t hear God’s invitation; God’s reminder that falling doesn’t matter. What matters is walking into the future with trust that God is in every rise and fall, forgiving our stumbles even before we know they’ve happened.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Psalm 121:5-6

Picture from vladstudio.com

Picture from vladstudio.com

Giving and Receiving

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.” -Rumi

Months ago now, the teachers at our school had an inservice which ended with a creative assignment. There was a pile of small stones beside paints and paintbrushes. We were to think of a word to paint on the rock, expressing a wish for our school community. Many excellent words were chosen: “Happiness”; “Joy”; “Unity”, “Safety”. The stones were put in a basket and now sit in our art display case.

The word I chose was “Welcome” – that each child and adult would feel welcomed and included, no matter what challenges face us all. It is certainly how I have felt at our school thanks to many kind people. The word has stayed with me like a prayer all these months and came back to me this past week during my morning scripture readings. 

This week’s theme was “service”. Scripture teaches that a Christian community is like a body, with many parts that all have a job or gift to contribute to the whole. Initially, I didn’t want to contemplate this theme. My gut reaction made me fear that if I am asked to serve, I’ll be depleted. And yet, I saw two clear examples this week that service is as much about giving as it is receiving.

The guide asked, “What gift do you have?” and that’s when I thought back to my “Welcome” stone. I’ve been told that’s one of my gifts, and I thought of the stone each morning as I welcomed the kids back to class. Teachers welcome the whole spectrum – from the quiet, happy child to the ones who are more like diamonds in the rough. All come through our doors. It’s funny – I drag my feet some mornings because I think that being a welcoming hostess will be an extraction.

But I invariably find that something kicks in as I remember that I love the kids. In welcoming them, I somehow remember the ways I myself have been welcomed.  I have received love, guidance and support in so many ways. I have been given the gift of second chances from God and my faith community. I know I am not alone in this. Each person in our community would say the same. Despite the shadows that trip us up again and again, we are infinitely forgiven and loved.  As one of my favorite verses says, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:39) It gives me joy to welcome the kids.

I had another example of how service ended up being a gift to me as I gave it out. This time the gift was in writing. Every week as we study a scripture passage, we answer a few questions to help us focus. It was the same as the welcoming – I was dreading doing the writing because I thought it’d be an extraction, but it ended up being strangely refreshing and reorienting. My thoughts got organized. It was as if I’d just gone for a spa treatment as I wrote about important truths that were bigger than the small stuff I can get so preoccupied with.

Gifts are both something we give to the world and what we receive. I was grateful this week that I saw ways that God provides for me.

P.S. – Another encouraging gift came to me this week in the form of my son Joel’s creative ventures. He makes flowers dance in these little videos he is putting together for his project. He is giving something to the world and I see how much joy it gives him every day. Please have a look at his 5 minute video.

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