Archive for June, 2009

The Ripples

Some tragedy has struck my family recently. Because of the personal nature of it all, I’m not going to get into the details here. But I do have some thoughts I need to share…

When the show “Joan of Arcadia” (a brilliant and poignant reflection on practical Christian theology) was on the air, it had a consistant theme of considering the “ripples” of every action. Similarly to a stone thrown into a still pond, every action has a series of reactions–some being further away and fainter than others, but nonetheless disturbing the stillness of the pond.

Here in California we are familiar with this notion in a very real way. When an earthquake hits, those who are closest to the epicenter of the earthquake will feel it the strongest. The shaking will be more jarring, it may last longer, and there is a higher occurrence of felt aftershocks. The further away you are from the epicenter, the less jarring the shaking will be. Nevertheless, when an earthquake hits the Southland (a relatively strong one, at least), it is felt pretty much wherever you are. How much it damage it does is usually dictated by one’s relative location to the epicenter.

So it is with our lives. Sometimes there are terrible, jarring tremors in our lives. The epicenter is so close that damage is unavoidable. Sometimes the damage is irrepairable.  There are injuries that can never fully heal.

Other times there is a tremor that is a bit removed, that we know has certainly caused a great deal of damage in someone else’s location. For us, perhaps, it was just a bit of shaking. A dish or two might have broken. No immediate damage that anyone can see. And yet it is still very frightening.  And with every earthquake, no matter how far away, there is always the fear that comes with it: where will it happen next? Will it be closer next time?

The ripples of our actions are farther reaching than we realize. Each choice has the potential to move its underground fingers through the landscape of countless lives.  I wonder if people who think that nobody really cares recognize what these ripples, what these living earthquakes, can really do.

A year gone by

It is June 12th, and I have now completed one school year in seminary.  My finals were finished as of Wednesday, and I turned in my last paper yesterday.

What a transformative experience this has been. This last quarter was my most challenging and most enjoyable yet. I remember when I was working as a teacher telling my husband that I missed feeling intimacy with God; this year, I have regained that intimacy, plus more than I ever anticipated. This has stretched me farther than my other master’s ever did, intellectually, spiritually, and academically. I am proud of my work, and I am so excited about the future.

If I were to consider one of the primary emotions of this year, I would have to say that a lot of it has felt scary. Scary because there was so much that was opening up in my heart and in my life; I was becoming a person that I never felt I would have the guts to become. It was scary to walk outside the Catholic comfort zone. It was scary to know that I was in a place where I had zero credibility. It was scary to begin thinking about living more simply, having to become uncomfortable with the choices that our culture has built into the “system” of our daily lives. It was scary to start thinking that maybe our lives wouldn’t be what some would consider “normal.” That we might take a little bit of a harder road. It was scary to start really having to look at poverty and consumption in ways that inevitably must affect our actions, if we truly think about how we are living our lives. It was scary to feel called by God in an unconventional direction. This has been scary!

But, just as is usually the case with a blessed and God-guided experience, the scariness did not feel impossible. It was not paralyzing. It was not filled with dread. It was uncomfortable, yes; it required (and continues to require) intentional displacement. But awful? Dreadful? Terrible? No way. In fact, the opposite. A “good” scary, if there ever was one.

The strange thing about this scary is that the very nature of it’s existence gives me courage. It’s not the king of feeling that feeds on itself in a self-destructive way, but rather in a way that requires expansiveness and openness. It has given me the courage to turn down jobs and scholarships that seemed to be “perfect.” It has given me the courage to look the poor in the eye when I talk to them and to imagine impossible transformations within the Church. It has given me the courage to enjoy housecleaning and cooking, not as a “traditional wife,” but rather as a loving partner filling in her part of the teamwork. It has given me the courage to give things away that I thought were necessary to feel pretty or well-off. It has given me the courage to look at the practices of our governmental policies and our food production/distribution system. It has given me the courage to begin living in the Kingdom of God, as an active participant.

I know more scaries are coming, and I also know more blessed moments of courage are, too. Bathed in the Holy Spirit, I’m ready to embrace them both.

So, I suppose in summary, I should say that this year has been more than a year in seminary. There were moments that, as you have seen, things have gotten quite busy (as noted by my absence here). But I hope to tell you about more of them. Because it’s been a year of living into my potential more than ever before. And I’m thrilled about it.