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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To God: After Reflecting on Returning to Spiritual Direction this Fall

Jackie began our time with silence and asked me to turn inward and ask You what you had for me during our time together. I did what I always do. I searched frantically through my brain, frightened and anxious that I would come up empty, with nothing to talk about. Afraid that nothing was there. That you wouldn’t show up.

But after 10 or 15 minutes I remembered a passage from the book Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris that had brought such peace to me Sunday night. It was under the chapter “Detachment.”

In that chapter Kathleen writes about this old monastic term that has lost its meaning in modern times. She quotes the 16th Century monk, Dorotheus of Gaza, who describes detachment as “being free from [wanting] certain things to happen,’ and remaining so trusting of God that ‘what is happening will be the thing that you want and you will be at peace with all.’”

Just reading this passage tonight floods my spirit with peace a second time. It feels so novel and so ancient all at once. Novel to me. Ancient in it’s wisdom.

I brought this to Jackie out of the quiet time. I told her that a shift had happened in my heart when I read the explanation of detachment and though my mind perhaps did not fully understand it, my heart released its breath and relaxed.

“You have a new tool with which to process you’re anxiety,” she said, with that sparkle in her eye that doesn’t go away.

Even now the remnants of our conversation are fading away. Oh help me remember, let me hold onto it. Here are the things that she said that impressed themselves upon my heart.

She asked me to what areas of my life I thought I might apply this “detachment” and I knew before she had finished speaking, the answer: my relationship with L~, finding peace with the hurt and disappointment there; my writing, letting go of the wanting of so many things to happen, of the angst that comes with measuring success; and with Noelle, and my anxiety over my offerings as a mother.

When I described to her the peace detachment brought me with L~. How it had released my heart when I spoke those words over that relationship, knowing that “what is happening between us will be the thing that I want and I will be at peace with it," she grinned and said, “God is holding it. Not you. That is detachment.” And yes, that was exactly it. The relief of knowing that I can be present to the emotions but that I do not have to hold the circumstances or the outcome of this relationship.

Then we moved onto my writing.

On one hand, I know without a doubt that it is my spiritual pathway. I know that I feel close to you when I write. I know that if I am feeling anxious, that often times asking myself, “When did I write last?” will shed light on the tumult of my heart.

But on the other hand, writing feels like such a selfish endeavour, self-centered, and indulgent. Who does it benefit? What has it done so far but cost, cost, cost my family in money and time? How can I possibly take another day away from Noelle to write? How can I possibly take more time away from Dwayne to write? These are things that feel dangerous to me as if this writing could sabotage the most intimate relationships in my life.

“Here, we could camp for months on three or four of the statements you’ve just made,” Jackie said after hearing the scramble of words and conflicting emotions out of my mouth.

Even as she said this I felt myself holding up arms, No, no, this is not that meaningful or important, it is just my writing.

I didn’t have to speak.

“This is an important matter,” Jackie answered my thoughts. “It’s a spiritual matter.”

Big sigh. “It is?”

“Yes,” she exclaimed and raised out of her chair. “Because it’s your vocation. It’s God working out his kingdom through you.”

What beautiful words.

There are two rivers running thorugh my spirit. One running out of the mouth of self-contempt toward worldly success, striving always for the ocean of “enough.” The other river runs from a source I cannot quite name and it runs with a deep longing toward significance, meaning, contribution, worship.

I want the latter, but I am ruled by the former. Detachment is letting go of the wanting of certain things to happen.

“There are markers” Jackie said. “That we can cling to. One, you write for God because he has created you to do this. Because it is your act of worship and your spiritual life. Whether or not a single soul reads what you’ve written – you write.”

“Next, I want you to close your eyes,” Jackie continued directing me, her hand conducting my heart like a musician. “I want you to imagine what it would be like if you won every bit of success and accolade possible. What does that look like? How does that feel for you?”

She waited for a moment. I knew an answer was not required.

“Now I want you to imagine that you are writing, and writing from your heart for God and that no one ever reads a single word. What does that feel like to you?”

I knew immediately my emotions over the final scenario: despair. It is not the right answer, but it is the ugly truth. The idea of my writing being only a hobby, only a pass time that my daughter ambles over disinterestedly one day, makes my stomach knot with anxiety.

“I know what each of those feel like,” I said, opening my eyes.

Jackie nodded her head, “And that is the reality of where you are at this moment. That is what you can take to God and show him. Go from there.”

We waited together for a moment and somewhere in the passing of time I remember these beautiful words:

“In the end, we don’t want to do things out of fear. Rather we want to be drawn by God.” Oh, to be drawn by God, rather than driven by the fear of inadequacy.

“You should not be afraid to pour into this area your life, Christin,” she said. “Because it is the wellspring of your spiritual health.”

In the end, she read this verse over me, “For it is by grace you [Christin] have been [given writing], through faith – and this is not from yoursel[f]. It is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Amen and Amen.


Anonymous Samantha said...

As a writer, I connect completely with your feelings and especially the "two rivers." I battle every day with allowing God to work through me/walking in the Spirit vs. walking in my flesh.

Lately, my prayer has truly been that God will take me where he wants me, and not my own grand ideas when it comes to publishing success or building my platform, etc. It can be such a hard balance though to know when to "strive" toward things and when to sit back a little.

It is evident that God has given you this gift, Christin, not just for your sake and your family's (which is of course THE most important) but for the world too- for others to see God's glory through what you write.

To give you an example of my struggle with writing out of my heart for God vs. sharing it with others- I hesitated for a very long time to export my blog to facebook. I wrestled and wrestled with God over this. What would my high school friends think about all this God stuff?

Well I bit the bullet and it's been almost a year since I did it. I've had a few emails from those very people I feared reading what I wrote and they said how much they were encouraged (unbelievers). I was in shock!

All that to say, I think it's often a matter of obedience in how we choose to use our gifts.

I'm excited about what God has for you!

8:15 AM  

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