(Note – this is a reflection not on the Catholic Women Preacher Circle, but on themes from my intro piece: home, transition out of Religious life)
I type these words on a porch swing in the Wisconsin Northwoods on retreat. Mostly, I have slept (between 9 ½ and 11 hours a night!) and taken walks in the woods (finding home in the body!) which is so necessary after the last three months’ stressors – to simply be with God and exhale.
For each of the six years since I left Charlottesville to discern religious life, I’m rereading journals to look back at people, places, experiences, opportunities, etc to ask: Where do I easily feel gratitude? What conjures up grief? For both what I name “gratitude” and “grief,” where is God active? Where is grace (in retrospect, whether I experienced the moment as positive or negative in the moment)?
And I’m responding in my sketch pad. What from the last six years do I gather as treasure to take with me, and what do I give to God because it’s not mine to carry?
I’m aware of the tendency to either throw a pity party (“poor me! Look at all I gave up to discern religious life and now I have nothing to show for it!”) or to inauthentically silver-lining-ish (“well, it didn’t work out, but look at all these good things that happened along the way! Chin up!”) and sense Jesus with me in naming the truth of these six years, and a letting go of the “If only…” or “what if…” stories to simply, humbly recognize that I don’t know. Yesterday on a solo hike around Lake Fallison, I invited Jesus to walk with me like in the Emmaus story in Luke – and sensed Jesus’ presence in both my lament and hope around the last six years, knowing I need to walk through this to come to freedom to where Jesus wants us to go together next.
“These transitions come with the right and duty to let go,” a mentor told me as I move through separation from the congregation. Similarly, I came across a Henri Nouwen passage I had copied into my journal: “every time there are losses, there are choices to be made. You choose to live your losses as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression and resentment, or you choose to let these losses be passages to something new, something wider and deeper.” (from Finding My Way Home)
I have also been praying with the image of “being carried” from Isaiah in our Monday morning prayer. It reminded me of this song (though it is rooted in Buddhist, not Christian tradition). In my prayer the “she” is the God who has carried me from birth, during this past six years, and into the next chapter of life.