At the Crossroads…
(These are notes from a retreat I am attending. I feel like a reporter, using my notebook PC; then ‘retreating’ to my room to review my notes, and prepare this summary! If you’ve already read my first report(s), please ‘scroll down’ the page. I beleive I started the blog wanting to share Sister Doreen's words and thoughts. As I wrote and reflected, it seems it has become much more my reflections. Perhaps that;s good. I would appreciate your comments on the theme of this blog,or thoughts or quesitons that came to you. .... Pastor George Pell)
The overall theme, 'At the Crossroads' asks us… ‘what do we do when we come to crossroads in our lives?’ Our retreat leader, Sister Doreen McGuff, suggests that we need to learn to wait, a task which “is necessary, but difficult”
A theme passage for our retreat is found in a passage from Jeremiah (6:16) in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
Crossroads are a placing of waiting, and allow us to hear other voices than our own.
Silence and waiting allow us to let go of our agenda, to connect with God, to connect with others, and with the deep places of our being.
Waiting is sometimes harder work than action.
There is a Zen proverb which speaks to the discipline of waiting. “Muddy water… let stand… becomes clear.”
Waiting is ‘paying attention’ to the present; it allows us to receive something new. In waiting at the crossroads, we receive gifts. These are spiritual gifts, found in developing a practice of waiting.
Two of these gifts are ‘Patience’, and ‘Loss of Control’
These gifts are in opposition to the 'quick-fix' mentality. ‘Patience’ is a gift calling us to ‘active’ waiting. 'Loss of Control' means we don't have to 'play God', we don't have to have all the answers, or be able to do it all by ourselves.
‘Patience’ is a gift calling us to ‘active’ waiting. 'Loss of Control' means we don't have to 'play God', we don't have to have all the answers, or be able to do it all by ourselves.
These gifts of patience and loss of control call us to ‘trust beyond the moment’; to create bridges of caring and connection. There is time to do this, when we wait.
'Waiting' is a place where we de not spend our kinetic energy; it is storing energy as potential; and allowing ourselves to choose paths that emerge in this time of active waiting. When we use our energy wisely, better results happen with less excess energy being spent. (In construction, there is a similar principle: ‘measure twice; cut once.’)
There are many life-lessons that we cannot learn when we move too fast. ‘Patience’ certainly is one. ‘Surrender’ (another way of saying 'loss of cotrol') is another.
Surrender allows us to admit that we are part of something larger than ourselves, something we cannot control. The practice and gift of surrender opens space for healing.
It should be obvious to us (but often is not), that healing cannot happen if we are “barrelling along above the speed limit of life.” When we come to crossroads, we can choose… we can connect; we can heal and be healed.
Waiting, and the active practice of patience creates opportunity. In Sister Doreen’s words, waiting “is part of a process in which we can participate with steady determination and lively expectation. There are no short cuts!”
Session 3 began with an introduction of other gifts that can be found at the crossroads, at a time of intentional, attentive waiting (discernment). These are the gifts of ‘living in the present’, ‘compassion’, and ‘gratitude’.
‘Living in the present’ creates space for active listening, being truly ‘there’ with others, and not overtaken by our own concerns, or sense of moving on
The spiritual gift of ‘Compassion’ allows us to share intimacy, to enter into and appreciative the story another person shares.
The gift of ‘Gratitude’ open our eyes to the blessings of meetings and events we might overlook if we were in a hurry to pass through the crossroads… chance meetings, sharing hopes, letting go of burdens occurrences.
These are all gifts earned through the practice of attentive waiting.
A sense of sacred time may develop, when we are most aware of God’s presence, of 'standing in mystery'.
Deep and profound questions arise, not necessarily 'answers', and so, in a positive way, we become vulnerable, open to others, to God, to change.
On reflection, it seems that when we are 'on the road, the path is clear, the way ahead is known, or laid before us. At crossroads, we can wait; we can choose our paths. Tomas Merton spoke of contemplative life leading to new possibilities and choice. And this is hard work!
Waiting creates the possibility of ‘letting go’ of burdens, prejudices, agenda. Rabbi Heschel insists that 'just to be' is a blessing. In waiting (being contemplative), we can appreciate and develop God-given gifts. We can choose what we need for our future.
Sister Doreen closesd with two insights from Mother Theresa. First, she said that if you cannot first hear Jesus in the silence of you own heart, you will not be able to hear 'I thirst' in the hearts of the poor. (Attentive waiting at the crossroads of life is important.) Second, Mother Theresa said she never visualized the 'mass' of need, but only the individual person she could help and be to whom she could be present.
In our final session, Sister Doreen spoke of ‘humility’ and ‘trust’. She calls them ‘spiritual gifts’; but gifts that are won through hard work. ‘Longing for God’ is a universal human quality, though we sometimes do not recognize our longing. Quoting an ‘old’ axiom, “each of us has a God-shaped hole”, and our selves are not complete until we allow God to fill it.
Psalm 42 describes the longing of a deer for cool waters; and the psalmist sees this as a parallel to our longing for God. This is not despair, longing for what cannot be; but a longing to be complete; for deeper contact with the earth, and with God.
What do we want at the core of our being (~ What are our core values? What are our deepest desires?) To discover these deep desires, we must allow lourselves to wait,at the Crossorads of life, and ponder.
The Annunciation (of Mary’s pregnancy by an angel, in the 'Message' version) says something like: 'good morning, you're beautiful , inside and out, with God's beauty.....”There are other biblical example of God’s love for us. “You are the apple of God's eye”. “You are held in the palm of God's hands.”
It takes humility to accept God’s love for us!
Humility is not de-basing ourselves, or our potential, but honestly accepting and loving ourselves in the same way God loves us.
Sister Doreen suggests that ‘we are all too awareness of our weaknesses; we need to cultivate mantras that affirm us, that help us to do the hard work that moves us closer and closer into the heart of God.”
Maryanne Williamson writes: 'our deepest fear is not that we are not inadequate: our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 'That reminds me of a phrase Spiderman uses.... 'with great power comes great responsibility'.
As we stand at teh crossroads, and seek the ancient paths where the good ways lie, we discover that “our thirst for God will not be satisfied by taking an eyedropper full of love and dribbling it over our tongue (we need to take a whole bucket!).” It is a gift.... becoming the glory of God for each other.
Our thirst for God will be satisfied, although it will be hard work... waiting... developing spiritual practices, and receiving spiritual gifts
God calls us to be re-created, and God calls us to re-create.
At the Crossroads, as we actively wait, our lives change.