by Christine Sine
I hate it when the themes I choose for Godspace are God’s word for me personally. Talk about needing discernment!!!
When we chose Where does your soul long to do? I rather offhandedly wrote in my journal My soul longs for the centeredness of silence, the resilience of love and the strength of humility thinking as I wrote it: I long to be equipped with the strength and resilience of the Holy Spirit that enables me to be centre in the love of God and nourished my God’s presence within me. It sounded so spiritual! and my last week’s post reflected that.
Then on Wednesday Hilary told me that they will be moving in a couple of months. She and her family have lived in our upstairs apartment for three years and I feel I will be losing a good friend, a marvelous Godspace assistant and the community community she and her family have so vitally contributed to. I delight in the kids playing in the backyard and I am devastated by the thought of life without them. So not surprisingly my initial reaction was panic and the old feelings of loneliness and abandonment quickly raised their ugly heads.
So I sat down to regroup and refocus knowing that in times of transition, when the road is rocky and the path beneath my feet unstable, I need to check my foundations and strengthen them where necessary.
So I turned to my favorite centering prayer which is mounted on a canvas plaque on my desk, took a few deep breaths and began to pray, seeking to discern what God might be saying as I begin yet another transition in my life with lots of uncertainty and vulnerability – probably a much more realistic place to start discernment than the assurance and confidence I expressed last week.
Discerning As The Beloved of God
Once again it was Henri Nouwen who guided me in the right direction.
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us God’s beloved. Being the beloved of God expresses the core truth of our existence (Nouwen 26)
As I reflected on this it occurred to me that my initial response to What does your soul long to do sounds more like a response to what does Christine Sine long to do? And I realized that this is more about What does my soul long for me to be.?
Now I need to really get down to the nitty gritty and ask what is the deep longing of my soul, a longing that cannot be disrupted by my insecurities and the place that question needs to being is with the assurance that I am indeed God’s beloved child, no matter what my failings are and no matter how uncertain I am of the path.
So this week I have started each day with the mantra You are beloved of God allowing the truth of this incredible statement to sink into my soul. The less confidence I have in this truth, the more vulnerable I am to being misled by my insecurities.
I have recited my mantra repeatedly throughout the day: while I walk our dog, while I process the incredible abundance from the garden and while I sit in the evenings savoring the beauty of God’s creation around me and the delight of companionship with my husband. I have opened myself to hear what God has to say about belovedness through the scriptures and have listened to other voices through which God is also speaking. I have pulled out one of my finger labyrinths and my sketching doodling journal (more about these tools in next week’s post) and spent time meditating.
The peace that has flooded my soul is incredible. The assurance of God’s love overwhelming. My delight in a new depth of closeness to God amazing.
Next Steps in Discerning
So I am framing some questions to continue guiding me through these next steps and I thought that some of you might appreciate my emerging process and what I am learning from it.
Who are you?
I am beloved of God, made in the Holy image, a child of the Sacred One, part of the eternal family.
How do you experience that belovedness?
This was one I pondered for quite a while before I came up with any kind of an answer and I know it is a question I need to ponder on a regular basis. What makes me aware that I am beloved by God?
The trouble is that there is no really tangible answer to this question.
I am aware that I am beloved by God when I make sure I set aside time each morning (at least 10 minutes) to sit quietly, breathe deeply of the fragrance of God’s presence and contemplate the wonder of who God is.
I am also aware that I am beloved by God when I take time throughout the day to pause and rest once more in the presence of God for a couple of minutes. The more frequently I do this, the more I am aware of my belovedness and the surrounding presence of God through every minute of the day. At the moment, not surprisingly this pause begins with reciting my mantra I am beloved of God. Sometimes it is changed to God knows all my failings but loves me still. This is an incredibly liberating process that opens me up to the abiding presence of God in every moment of the day.
I am aware that I am beloved by God when I read the scriptures that speak of belovedness – time to read through Song of Solomon again and refresh through my favorite psalms that speak of beloved.
I know that I am beloved by God when I read through the gospels and imagine that Jesus himself is present with me. These experiences are my experiences, his love for his disciples extends across time and space to me too. I was particularly reminded of John 13:2 “He (Jesus) had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.” Jesus loves us too to the very end I thought.
Who walks with you on this journey?
We never walk alone on our journey towards God. We travel with a vast cloud of companions and witnesses, seen and unseen, present and departed, friends, family, colleagues, teachers, followers of Christ and those who suffer from the same uncertainty
One of the things that this current transition has made me aware of is that the Mustard Seed Associates staff and board were my support group and accountability group too.
Where is my current accountability group I have been wondering? I have made the establishing of this group a major priority. None of us move forward healthily without a good responsibility group and not establishing this immediately after resigning from Mustard Seed Associates has I feel been one of major failings.
There are others that walk with me on this journey however.
Who walks with you as companions I ask? There are my spiritual mentors of today whose books I have read and who have guided me through the example of their lives and expressions of faith – Parker Palmer, Norman Wirzba, Brenda Salter McNeil, Christine Valters Paintner and Walter Brueggemann are at the top of my list. There are friends, family and colleagues who are part of my life now, too many of them to name. There are those who read and respond to my blogging and writing. Their questions and comments continue to shape my journey.
Who are the witnesses from the past that stand beside me? There are those from the past – my ancestors, known and unknown, spiritual mentors whose books I read with great delight and challenge Henri Nouwen, John O’Donahue, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rachel Held Evans. Looking further back the desert fathers and mothers, Celtic saints, and Julian of Norwich have all challenged and shaped me. And in the Bible so many stories tell of ordinary people whose extraordinary lives are inspiring guides for me.
As I discern and seek to better frame what my soul longs to do I realize that I need to allow these questions to frame who I am and where I sit now in God’s family and God’s creation first. Defining what my soul longs to do without a solid foundation just doesn’t work in the long run.
So let me end with the prayer that has bubbled up inside me this week… and be prepared for the next installment of this journey coming next week.
Do you see who you are?
Beloved of God
Made in the Holy image
A child of the sacred One,
Part of the eternal family.
Do you see what you are called to be?
Loved and loving,
Cared for and caring,
Forgiven and forgiving.
Do you hear the voice of God
Singing in the silence?
Love will overcome fear,
Joy is deeper than sorrow,
\Unity will break through division,
Life is stronger than death.